By William James
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain and Australia on Thursday signed a deal projected to eventually boost bilateral trade by over 10 billion pounds, eliminating tariffs, opening up sectors like agriculture and allowing freer movement for service-sector professionals.
Analysis drawn up by Britain and independently vetted said it would boost the economy by 2.3 billion pounds ($3.07 billion) per year and unlock 10.4 billion pounds of imports and exports by 2035.
Total goods and services trade between Britain and Australia was worth 14.5 billion pounds in the year to June 2021, with Australia ranked Britain’s 21st-largest trade partner and accounting for 1.2% of total British trade.
The deal adds only a small fraction to Britain’s 3 trillion dollar economy, but it is the first trade agreement London negotiated from scratch since it left the European Union.
“This is just the start as we get on the front foot and seize the seismic opportunities that await us on the world stage,” British Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.
Britain sees the deal as an important step toward membership of a trans-Pacific trade bloc that would shift its economic centre away from Europe and towards growing economies with demand for professional services.
British farmers complained when the agreement in principle was announced that the deal exposes them to competition from large-scale Australian meat producers that could squeeze out home-grown products.
Australia said in June the deal was a “great win” for Australian agriculture. Britain says the deal has safeguards to protect farmers.
The final terms of the deal will be put before British parliament for scrutiny. Lawmakers can theoretically block a treaty indefinitely, but this power has never been tested, according to a House of Commons Library briefing.
($1 = 0.7484 pounds)
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)