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Liz Truss will this week set out her ambition for a “gold standard” trade deal with Australia which would wipe tariffs on spirits, clothing and cars, as the Government prepares to step up talks next month.
The International Trade Secretary will tell MPs that UK officials are intensifying talks as they push for a wide-ranging agreement which includes financial services, telecoms, technology, food and drink.
The Government also hopes to make it easier for professionals to travel and work in Australia, with politicians in Canberra calling for the two sides to agree to freedom of movement in any post-Brexit deal.
A Whitehall source On Saturday night said both sides were optimistic a deal can be struck before the end of the year, with the UK also hoping to conclude a deal with Japan in the same time frame.
With the second round of negotiations due to commence in the fourth week of September, Ms Truss will hail a trade deal with Australia as a “critical step” to fulfilling the UK’s ambition of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The trade bloc, comprising 11 nations including Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, accounts for 13 per cent of global commerce, with 95 per cent of goods traded between members tariff-free.
The UK is said to be particularly drawn to the bloc due to huge growth potential as well its high standards in areas such as digital and data.
On Saturday night Ms Truss said: “We want a gold standard deal with Australia that pushes new frontiers in trade and delivers for the whole country.
“We are intensifying talks over the next few weeks, and fighting hard for British interests in areas like financial services, telecoms, tech, and food and drink.
“Together with our great friend Australia, we will stand up for rules-based free trade and help advance it globally. Strategically, a deal is an important step towards British membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – which will open up new opportunities for our businesses and hitch Britain to one of the world’s biggest free trade areas.”
The UK intends to secure zero-tariffs on UK exports including whisky, gin, sausages and cars, currently set at five per cent, as well as simplifying customs processes, and making it easier for professional and financial services companies to operate in Australia.
The Government believes the deal would boost the UK economy by £500m, increase UK wages by £400m, and drive up exports by £900m in the long-term.
It comes just days after it was reported that Tony Abbott, the former Australian prime minister, is set to join the UK’s Board of Trade as part of the drive to strike free trade deals around the world.
While Downing Street has not yet confirmed the appointment, which is expected to be as an advisor, Mr Abbott is due to be in London this week to address the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and speak at a think tank event.
Mr Abbott, who served as premier between 2013 and 2015, has previously suggested that the UK should prioritise striking deals with “economically advanced Commonwealth countries”, describing them as the “obvious place” to start.
In a foreword to a paper published in 2017 by the Tory backbench Free Enterprise Group, Mr Abbott added: “Of course, no two countries are more like-minded than Britain and Australia. We have a language, a set of values and a large slab of history in common.
“If Britain is determined to make the most of Brexit…why not strive for a one page free trade agreement with Australia? The movement of goods between our two countries should be absolutely free of tariffs or quotas.
“And each country’s product and service standards should be recognised in the other.”