CANBERRA, (Xinhua) — Australia and Britain have established a bilateral Trade Working Group to act as a stepping stone towards signing a free trade deal (FTA) once Britain exits the European Union (EU), Australia’s Trade Minister confirmed on his website Wednesday.
Following a series of meetings with his British counterpart, Australia’s Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, on his official visit to Europe, said both nations have a desire to secure a free trade deal once the Brexit formally occurs. He said the Trade Working Group would “advance the agenda” until that time comes.
“We want the Working Group to advance an agenda that will ensure the expeditious transition to FTA negotiations when the UK (Britain) has formally completed its negotiations to exit the EU,” a statement released to Ciobo’s website in Canberra said.
“Both of us want a future free trade agreement (FTA) to generate new trade and investment opportunities. We will prioritize consultation and outreach to our respective stakeholders to seek their input to the work of the Working Group.”
Ciobo said the Working Group would not only act as a stepping stone towards a free trade deal between the historically-linked partners, but would also serve to involve Australia in further, plurilateral trade negotiations.
He had agreed to meet with Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, twice a year until Brexit occurs, Ciobo said.
“In addition to preparing for bilateral FTA negotiations, its agenda will include other trade policy issues of mutual interest, including WTO processes and current and prospective plurilateral negotiations,” Ciobo’s statement said.
“To maintain momentum, we have agreed to meet twice annually to review progress in the Working Group,” said the statement.
The first such meeting will take place in early 2017 in Australia, which will be preceded by discussions in Australia later this year during the planned visit by Lord Price CVO, Minister of State for Trade Policy, according to the statement.
“This initiative reflects a strong political commitment by Australia and the UK (Britain) to take a leadership role in advocating for global trade liberalization and reform,” said the statement.