Australia’s free trade deal with Britain set to be derailed

Australia’s much touted free trade deal with the UK promising Aussies cheap cars, clothes and booze is set to be derailed with a British parliamentary committee labelling it hasty, lacking and done in secret.
The ambitious deal, which had cricket great Sir Ian Botham as its public face, was supposed to unlock more than $A18 billion in bilateral trade and was held up as a model of a deal that could be done post-Brexit.
But now the UK Government has been told to delay signing off as it lacks enough scrutiny on any benefits, at least on the British side.
British Parliament’s International Trade Committee has urged a delay in ratifying the deal, agreed to last December. It was originally expected the deal would be up and running in the next six months. Committee chair Angus Brendan MacNeil MP said they had been “consistently hindered” in attempts to fully examine the deal and he said such was its state, the Australians were also not prepared to ratify it.
“Overhasty ratification, without the chance to complete full scrutiny, runs the risk that any significant disbenefits of the Agreement may be overlooked or disregarded,” the committee warned in its report.
At the time of signing the contract, the then Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan hailed the deal as historic and “a gold standard agreement” that would remove tariffs on Australian goods exported to the UK, saving businesses hundreds of millions of dollars.
Former cricket great Sir Ian Botham is currently touring Brisbane and Melbourne as the UK’s trade envoy to Australia selling its benefits. But Britain’s farmers are bemoaning it could damage their industry with a flood of Aussie beef and carries no guarantees migrant workers in Australia are not being exploited. Analysts also point out while Australians might prosper from lower tariffs and cheap goods including Scotch whisky, the British would save on average just one pound a year per household.
Mr MacNeil said: “Overhasty ratification means that any potential disadvantages of the deal are not fully uncovered or understood. This could have damaging effects for businesses and communities across the UK.”
The British Department for International Trade said in a statement Parliament had already had six months to scrutinise the legal text and it had been transparent at every stage.
“We spent 18 months negotiating and signing an ambitious UK-Australia deal that will unlock £10.4 billion ($A18.3 billion) of additional trade and look forward to seeing it come into force so consumers and businesses across the UK can start enjoying the benefits,” a spokesman said.

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