Australia-UK free trade agreement to take effect within weeks, relaxing visa rules and scrapping tariffs

A historic free trade agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom is set to be in place by the end of the month following years of negotiations.

The deal, which relaxes trade and visa arrangements between the two countries, was agreed more than a year ago.

Now having worked its way through both the Australian and British parliaments, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says it will take effect within weeks.

“It will be in place by May 31,” he told the ABC in London.

“It has completed its parliamentary processes [in Britain] and of course we completed our parliamentary process at the end of last year.

“What it will mean, put simply, is more access to the market here [in the UK] for our goods and services.

“So for beef, for our sheep products, for our seafood, for other of our products, it will mean much greater access to the British market.”

The deal with Australia was the first free trade agreement struck by the UK after its exit from the European Union.

Under the agreement, there will be no tariffs on more than 99 per cent of Australian exports to the UK, and tariff quotas will be eliminated within a decade.

The UK government initially faced some resistance to the deal from its agricultural sector, concerned about what cheaper Australian imports might mean for British farmers.

Mr Albanese said the deal would also make it easier for Australians to live and work in the United Kingdom, and for British citizens to do the same in Australia.

Rules for working holiday visas will change, with Australians able to apply for the visas up to the age of 35, instead of 30, and stay for three years instead of two.

“That will provide for better career opportunities than just casual work if you can go into a workplace for three years,” he said.

“There are obvious benefits where people can get that experience here in the British economy and then I hope go back to Australia and make a greater contribution as a result of that experience.”

Talks continue on deal with EU

Ursula von der Leyen gestures as she speaks during a news conference

Negotiations are continuing between Australia and the European Union on a separate free trade agreement.

The deal would be substantially larger than the UK deal, providing access to a market of 450 million people, and a GDP of $20 trillion.

Mr Albanese said he expected to meet with EU representatives during his current visit to London for the coronation of King Charles.

“The European agreement is a very important one, I will be having discussions while I’m here,” he said.

“Tomorrow afternoon [European Commission President] Ursula von der Leyen will be present, I’ll be having a pull-aside with her about the EU Free Trade Agreement.

“We’re continuing to work very hard because we want that to come into effect as soon as possible as well.”

He indicated the completion of the UK FTA process would allow the government to focus its attention on the EU deal, and said he spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about the deal last week.

An invitation has also been issued to EU leaders to visit Australia in coming months.

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