The fourth round of negotiations on the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement was held virtually from 22 February to 5 March. Australia and the UK continued to make good progress towards securing a bilateral agreement that delivers new and improved opportunities for our exporters and investors. The Australian delegation was led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and included government representatives from:
- The Attorney-General's Department
- Australian Border Force
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
- Australian Space Agency
- Australian Tax Office
- Civil Aviation Safety Authority
- Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
- Department of Education, Skills and Employment
- Department of Finance
- Department of Home Affairs
- Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources
- Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
- Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
- Digital Transformation Agency
- IP Australia
- National Skills Commission
- The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
- The Treasury
- Workplace Gender Equality Agency
Over 50 negotiating sessions were held during the two weeks of the round, covering trade in goods, services and investment, digital trade, legal and institutional, and other issues typically covered in a comprehensive FTA, such as intellectual property, competition and SMEs.
We continued to make good progress across the agreement on many issues through text-based discussions. The fifth round of negotiations is expected to take place towards the end of April 2021. Negotiators will continue to work intersessionally to maintain momentum.
On completion of the Round, the Department undertakes a series of stakeholder outreach sessions, including a virtual joint stakeholder briefing with Australian and UK Chief Negotiators and over 120 stakeholders from peak bodies, business, industry groups, and civil society. These stakeholder briefings provide an opportunity for an update on the progress of negotiations and 'question and answer' sessions driven by stakeholder interests on a variety of issues across the FTA. The discussions typically cover issues including investment, agriculture, digital trade, professional mobility, telecommunications and intellectual property.
Trade in Goods
Australia and the UK made progress on agreeing aspects of the Trade in Goods Chapter and undertook to exchange further text-based proposals ahead of the next Round. Goods market access discussions continued.
On the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures chapters, the parties made progress on chapter text and had extensive discussions on TBT annex proposals.
On Rules of Origin and Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation, good progress continued on developing and agreeing to common negotiating text. Productive discussions also continued on product specific rules.
Services and Investment
Text negotiations spanned chapters for Cross-Border Trade in Services, Professional Services, Temporary Entry for Business Persons, Financial Services and Telecommunications Services. The discussions highlighted our like-mindedness in wanting to see ambitious outcomes in these areas. Australia and the UK continued discussions on international maritime transport services and express delivery services. Further discussions were held on investment rules to best support the bilateral relationship.
On Intellectual Property, the parties continued to introduce their proposals, with a focus on the enforcement of IP rights. The parties also made progress in refining the issues on general provisions, patents and trademarks and continued discussions on geographical indications.
There was good progress on articles important to creating trust in the online environment, including personal information protection, online consumer protection, spam and cybersecurity.
Other FTA Issues
Other FTA issues such as Competition, Environment, Government Procurement, Labour, Regulatory Coherence, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are important elements of a comprehensive and effective FTA. Useful discussions were held on all issues with varied progress across these chapters reflecting their level of complexity. Both sides also exchanged initial market access requests for Government Procurement and held useful discussions regarding an Innovation chapter.
Legal and Institutional issues
Australian and UK negotiators made good progress on the legal, institutional and cross-cutting provisions. Both negotiating teams are committed to creating an efficient and transparent dispute settlement mechanism, robust transparency and anticorruption provisions, and an effective and streamlined process for the administration of the agreement.
Negotiators continued to explore creative ways to address cross-cutting issues of interest to both sides. Australia and the UK remain committed to using the opportunity of the FTA negotiations to strengthen our overall bilateral economic relationship, including through the pursuit of complementary economic initiatives alongside the FTA.