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By Kanishka Singh
(Reuters) – The next round of talks for a free trade agreement between Australia and Britain will take place in February after their trade ministers spoke last week, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan spoke to assess progress ahead of a fourth round of negotiations, the source said, asking not to be identified.
The deal with Australia could be completed as soon as March, the City AM newspaper reported earlier on Wednesday, adding that Britain’s talks with Australia were likely to conclude before similar negotiations with New Zealand and the United States.
The proposed trade deal with Australia will extend free mobile roaming for Britons travelling to Australia and open up the country’s market to UK telecommunications companies, the newspaper said, adding that the agreement will also slash tariffs on agricultural products going in both directions.
The United Kingdom is also asking Australia for tariffs to be dropped for some UK manufacturing sectors such as pottery makers, the report said.
Last month, Truss told Reuters that Britain’s trade talks with Australia were advancing well.
“We’ve exchanged initial tariff offers and held detailed technical discussions on areas such as investment, professional business services and financial services,” she said.
A deal with Australia is seen as an important step on the way to joining a wider free trade agreement known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The CPTPP is a trade agreement that removes most tariffs between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Truss said last week that Britain will soon submit its application to join the bloc.
Since deciding to leave the European Union, a process it completed at the end of 2020, Britain has been seeking out new trading arrangements around the world.
Britain’s trade with Australia in goods and services totalled 18.5 billion pounds ($25.37 billion) in 2019.
(Reporting by Sabahatjahan Contractor and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Chris Reese, Catherine Evans and Richard Pullin)