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Britain should prioritise ratifying a free trade agreement with Australia before trying to join the world’s largest trade agreement, a federal inquiry has been told.
Australian British Chamber of Commerce chief executive David McCredie told a joint standing committee he hoped to see the bilateral agreement ratified by the end of the year, if not by the next federal election slated for early next year.
Mr McCredie said while he supported moves for the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, those talks should be held off until the free trade agreement was signed.
“We would like to see it prioritised by the Australian and UK governments to make sure they move forward on that prior to further discussion of bringing the UK into the CPTPP,” he said.
“Given the strength of the relationship with the UK underlined by AUKUS, we should be able to deliver that relatively quickly.”
The free trade deal between the two nations was unveiled earlier this year, following months of negotiations.
The agreement was outlined in June as an in-principle deal but not a final arrangement.
The agreement between the UK and Australia was one of the first trade deals announced by Britain since it left the European Union.
Britain has also requested entry to the 11-nation agreement, which includes Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.
Entry to the agreement requires the approval of all member nations.
The comments come after former prime minister Tony Abbott said the UK’s admission to the partnership would be a catalyst to get the US to also join.
Mr McCredie said the creation of the new trilateral AUKUS alliance was also a further way of boosting UK and US involvement in the Indo-Pacific.
“What I would like to hope AUKUS means is the US is very much taking a focus in this area, and more so than it did than previous administrations,” he said.
“We’re looking at ways to engage in a holistic approach.”
Australian Associated Press