Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, and the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Trade & President of the Board of Trade, the Rt. Hon Dr Liam Fox MP, met on 30 November 2017 in Sydney. Noting significant challenges facing the global economy, Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work together to promote the rules-based international trading system, push back against protectionism and to continue to work bilaterally to lay the foundations for a deeper and broader trade and investment relationship between Australia and the UK.

Ministers agreed the Australia – UK relationship is a modern, dynamic one between two sophisticated economies, with enormous potential for further growth.

In 2016, the level of total UK foreign investment in Australia was valued at $515.5 billion, including foreign direct investment (FDI) of $67.9 billion. The level of Australian investment in the UK was $350.5 billion, with FDI of $73.2 billion.

Our people-to-people links are also very strong: Australia has the highest population of British nationals outside of the UK. About 5 per cent of Australia’s resident population was born in the UK; the UK is Australia’s fourth largest inbound market by arrivals and second by tourism expenditure; and the UK is Australia’s fourth largest short-term destination.

Ministers noted ongoing progress in the Trade Working Group to scope out the parameters of a future ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the two nations, in addition to advancing other trade policy issues of mutual interest. Ministers confirmed the early completion of a bilateral FTA was a priority for both governments, once the UK was in a position to negotiate new trade deals. They instructed officials to report back as early as the second half of 2018 with their conclusions on scoping the parameters of a future FTA. Both Ministers expressed their support for the EU-Australia FTA and hoped that these negotiations would commence in the near future.

Ministers instructed officials to continue to build momentum in the Trade Working Group and progress in identifying practical steps that could be taken to enable companies in both countries to trade and do business with one another more easily.

Ministers confirmed their commitment to ensuring certainty for Australian and UK business and consumers following the UK’s exit from the EU, notably by transitioning obligations contained within Australia-EU treaties to the UK post-Brexit.

Australia and the UK are both open economies which rely on the free flow of goods and services and on open and transparent investment regimes. Accordingly, Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to continue to work together in international fora to strengthen the rules-based international trading system.

Ministers recognised the importance of the WTO and having a successful upcoming MC11 Ministerial Conference. Ministers highlighted the importance of continuing to strive for outcomes in agriculture, services and e-commerce. They also recognised the importance of following through on the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and on the value of progressing the Trade in Services Agreement as soon as possible. Both parties had constructive discussions on the process of the UK establishing independent schedules at the WTO.

Ministers recognised the enormous opportunities digital trade offers not only to large, established enterprises trading globally, but also to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and entrepreneurs. They agreed on the need to see modern and liberal provisions on digital trade, which should support inclusiveness in the digital economy and keep the development agenda firmly in mind. Ministers shared the view that MC11 offered an opportunity to make progress on establishing appropriate rules for e-commerce and ensure the WTO remained relevant to business in the 21st century. The UK and Australia will continue to champion the opportunities digital trade can offer to all and ensure the rules-based international system facilitates those opportunities.

Given global developments, Ministers agreed it would be worthwhile to continue to exchange information with respect to various regional and plurilateral trade arrangements and initiatives, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region that will be the engine of global economic growth for at least the next decade.

The two ministers welcomed the strong industry stakeholder interest and input in both countries to the development of the Australia-UK trade, investment and commercial relationship. In that context, they noted Dr Fox’s wide schedule of engagements during his visit to Australia.

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