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Greg Hands hailed his boss’s negotiations with Canberra as he said export tariffs would be slashed as part of the agreement. Liz Truss is close to wrapping up trade talks with Australia, and a deal is expected to be announced next month.
Boasting of the opportunities offered by the deal, Mr Hands told MPs: “Our trade agreement with Australia is very likely to be the first from-scratch deal we have struck outside of the European Union.
“This is a major milestone for global Britain and a major prize secured for our newly independent trade policy.
“It is on course to slash tariffs on iconic UK exports, saving businesses potentially around £115million a year.
“The deal will be the most advanced that Australia has struck with any nation bar New Zealand and where we expect it to be particularly forward-leaning in areas such as services, procurement and digital trade.”
A breakthrough in discussions came last month when Ms Truss’s counterpart, Dan Tehan, travelled to London for face to face talks.
The pair “reached consensus on the vast majority of elements of a comprehensive free trade agreement”, Department for Trade officials said.
Negotiators are now finalising the remaining issues with the deal, ahead of the Australian prime minister Scott Morrisson travelling to the UK for the G7 on June 11 when the agreement is expected to be announced.
Total trade between the UK and Australia was worth £18.8billion in 2019 with a deal expected to lead to an added £900million in trade.
It could also add an extra £500million to the UK’s annual GDP.
Despite ministers praising the benefits of the dead, farming unions have expressed concern a zero-tariff and zero-quota trade deal could have negative impacts on the sector.
“The agreement is a gateway into the massive CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) free trade area in Asia-Pacific, opening doors for our farmers into some of the biggest economies now and the future.
“Our food is among the best in the world and incredibly competitive.
“We should be positive, not fearful of the opportunities that exist for our agriculture and our farmers.”
The CPTPP is one of the fastest-growing free trade agreements in the world and is made up of 11 countries.
Joining the group would open up trade opportunities with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The US is also tipped to join the group, having originally been a member before being pulled out of the free trade area by Donald Trump.
Joe Biden has already hinted he is eager to rejoin the CPTPP as he re-establishes the US on the world stage.
Ms Truss submitted the UK’s formal application to join the group earlier this year, with accession a central aim of the Government for 2021.