London: Britain and Australia finalised in a virtual ceremony on Thursday a free trade deal that is expected to unlock more than £10 billion (Dh48.9 billion) in trade annually.
The deal, which was agreed in principle in June, is the first free trade deal that Britain negotiated from scratch since its EU exit earlier this year to have been signed.
Britain and Australia concluded the deal after the two nations addressed issues surrounding the farming sector.
British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff-rate quotas and other safeguards.
Britain’s Department for International Trade said the deal which will eliminate tariffs on all exports between the two nations will help create new opportunities for businesses in both countries.
“Our UK-Australia trade deal is a landmark moment in the historic and vital relationship between our two commonwealth nations,” International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was quoted as saying in a statement.
The deal is also a boost for Britain’s strong service sector as it eases access to Australian work visas for professionals like lawyers and accountants to an unprecedented extent.
The Confederation of British Industry welcomed the signing, the “agreement sets the bar high”.
“The signing of the UK-Australia trade deal has opened up new frontiers for British businesses,” CBI President Lord Karan Bilimoria said in a statement.
“With a complete elimination of tariffs that will boost UK exports, improving the ability for those in business and our young talent to move across borders.”
Britain’s Department for International Trade said “it is a deal tailored for the UK economy with cutting-edge agreements in areas where Britain is a world leader... along with increased access to Australia for the UK’s powerhouse service sectors”.
Young Britons can also work and travel in Austria for up to three years at a time.
The department also described the deal as “a gateway into the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region and will boost our bid to join CPTPP, one of the largest free trade areas in the world”.
Before becoming prime minister, Boris Johnson had touted Brexit as allowing the construction of a “Global Britain” that would become a trading powerhouse thanks to better trade deals than when it was in the EU.
The free trade deal, which states that “£10.4 billion of additional trade” will be unlocked, will be submitted to lawmakers for review.
The deal with Australia — a former British colony on the other side of the world — is seen as low hanging fruit ahead of more difficult free trade talks with the United States and other major economic powers.
Britain earlier in June announced a free trade agreement with three European countries not in the EU — major fishing neighbour Norway as well as Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The UK-Australia trade relationship was worth £13.9 billion last year.