The Telegraph: Free Trade with our Aussie and Kiwi Allies is a No-brainer

Chocolate fish. Words that will bring back happy memories to anybody who has lived in or visited New Zealand. These delicious pieces of marshmallow covered in chocolate are “as Kiwi as…” and are popularly given as treats or rewards for a job well done.

Today, the Government launches its negotiations for a Free Trade Deal with Australia & New Zealand, a chance to grow our prosperity together, whilst enjoying and enriching each others’ culture. If we get this job done well, then these chocolate treats could be as popular in Wellingborough as Wellington, whilst Brisbane enjoys the delights of Bourneville.

The serious trade possibilities alone make this a “no brainer”. Estimates suggest that a free trade deal with Australia and New Zealand would lead to an increase in UK exports of £1bn in fields as diverse as automobiles and beverages. The New Zealanders have elevated the worship of coffee to an art form: so with the UK’s first and only wood-fired coffee roaster in my Witney constituency, I want the chance for the Kiwis to taste the best in the World. 

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, the voice of the wine industry in the UK, has already formally called for a free trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand that removes all alcohol tariffs between our countries, describing such a deal as a “win-win for industry and consumers on both sides of the world”. 

Australia has a 5% tariff on imported cars - introduced to protect a car industry that has now died out (a good example of how protectionism doesn’t work, incidentally,) - meaning that hardly any of the UK’s burgeoning car industry’s exports end up in this natural Australian market - where they even drive on the same side of the road. 

Then there’s the chance to develop professional services, to work closer together on data and digital trade: what is proposed is a modern, exciting, forward-looking free trade agreement. Much like our own, Australia’s financial services sector is the largest contributor to its economy, with technology currently driving massive changes in the sector. The UK is the world’s leading fintech hub, so we have the expertise that Australian start-ups need to expand. A comprehensive free trade agreement would enable us to go further than the recently signed Fintech Bridge agreement to maximise opportunities for British and Australian companies.

The rapid digital transformation of both Australia and New Zealand also means that there are particular opportunities in automation, blockchain, cloud computing and cyber security - all areas in which the UK excels. The UK’s leading AI company, Darktrace, has already achieved significant success in the Australian market, and this is just a glimpse of the positive collaboration we could see between the innovative companies of our three countries.

And the possibilities grow more exciting. We would be able to look towards British accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a logical next step given Australia and New Zealand are also members. CPTPP currently accounts for 13% of global GDP, which would instantly rise to 16% were the UK to join. And importantly, the Pacific region is a growing area of the World, with a trend growth rate double that of the EU.

These are benefits that would be felt in a very real way. An Australia-UK trade deal alone could increase UK GDP by up to £500m and increase workers’ wages by £400m; not surprising, given that even without an FTA, Australia is the UK’s biggest Commonwealth export market, with trade worth £11.2bn. That’s the potential of real money, in our workers’ pay packets. So, if you want to know what Global Britain means, well, here’s a very good start.

But this isn’t just about numbers, either in GDP or how many chocolate fish we can eat. Free trade is not only the greatest engine of prosperity ever created by the hand of man. It’s about much more than that: free trade is a chance to build new relationships and strengthen bonds with old friends all across the globe. As it is, over 200,000 Australians and New Zealanders live in the UK, with roughly the same number of British citizens living in Australia as in the 27 nations of the EU combined. Given our cultural ties and similar GDP per capita, there is great potential to further liberalise work, study and travel opportunities to our mutual benefit.

Australia and New Zealand share with us a language, a monarch, a flag; we play the same sports - England even occasionally beat the All Blacks or the Wallabies - drink the same drinks and have the same sense of humour. They are “Five Eyes” security partners, who grew with us out of a tradition of the common law and Parliamentary democracy. It is vital we work and trade in the closest possible way as we confront the security, defence and health challenges of the 21st century - and trade brings us closer together in commerce and spirit.

We have fought together, traded together, laughed and lived together. The Aussies and Kiwis aren’t just friends. They are family. We have walked together for years, in close fraternal association. Now we will walk closer still. As the Kiwis would say, “choice, bro.”

Robert Courts MP


This article was originally published in The Telegraph on 17.06.20