“The Prime Minister’s announcement that the critical trade deal with the UK won’t start this year is a blow to Australian exporters,” Kevin Hogan, Shadow Minister for Trade and Tourism said today.
“Where has the Trade Minister been? Where has the Prime Minister been? Securing a 2022 start was worth burning plenty of frequent flyer miles to shepherd the UK side through.
“The Albanese Government had consistently expressed confidence that exporters could start exporting under the trade deal this year”, Mr Hogan said.
“This failure to deliver as promised has a real financial impact on Australian exporters that seems lost on the Prime Minister.
“Failing to ratify by years end means Australian beef, sheep meat, sugar, dairy, rice, wheat and cereal crops, horticulture and seafood sectors will have to wait an additional 12 months to 1 January 2024 for the year one benefits of tariff elimination and quota increases to flow through.
“There is a financial opportunity cost to this delay and no doubt these sectors will be dismayed at the Prime Minister’s lack of ambition to seal ratification this year.
“Australian exports of agricultural products to the UK is valued at over $720 million and the FTA will improve access for them to more than 65 million UK consumers.
“While benefits will flow from the entry into force provisions of the agreement, the double benefit from a 2022 ratification was just the stimulus the sector needed after the challenges of the last couple of years.
Mr Hogan acknowledged the changes of leadership in the UK had presented challenges to the UK’s ratification process but were not insurmountable.
“The Prime Minister has been in government for six months, and left the fate of ratification to a last minute meeting. He and his Trade Minister should have moved heaven and earth to secure ratification on both sides, including meetings in the UK over this time period,” Mr Hogan said.
“The Government’s tardiness in appointing a new High Commissioner to the UK did not help either.
“That said, the Coalition has indicated to the Government our support for the passage of necessary legislation in the Parliament next week to uphold our treaty obligations under the trade agreement.
“I also welcome the recommendation of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties to support ratification, an important step in Australia’s treaty process.”