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Leading Thinktanks Urge Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement

Australia and the United Kingdom have been urged to negotiate a high-quality free-trade agreement to help rebuild public trust in trade liberalisation and provide a dynamic example of bilateral trading relations at a time of rising protectionist sentiment.

Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Theresa May discuss post-Brexit trade negotiations (photo: AAP)

Written by James Skinner
James is the founder & chief executive of CANZUK International in Vancouver, Canada


Two leading thinktanks – the McKell Institute in Australia and Demos in the UK – published proposals stating that an agreement would provide a constructive way forward at a time of rising protectionist sentiment.

The study notes the prospective trade pact between Canberra and London “comes at a pivotal moment in the economic and political histories of both nations”.

“While the UK’s Brexit vote is the most obvious economic shift in that nation’s history for generations, Australia too is seeing a resurgence in populist political voices espousing more protectionist economic measures,” it says.

“These trends come at a time where internationally, a scepticism towards globalisation and free trade in particular is rising. This is perhaps most notable in the United States – a nation that leads a world economy defined by liberalised global trade but paradoxically has seen opposition towards that order reach fever pitch.”

The study further states that, from the British perspective, as the May government takes back responsibility for trade policy outside the European Union, the bilateral deal with Australia “could be an important model FTA, which it could then use for building new trading relationships around the world”.

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The UK is not able to conclude free trade agreements while it is still a member of the European Union but preparatory work is underway. A working group of officials is scoping out the terms of the bilateral agreement with a view to commencement in 2021 – one year after the UK officially leaves the EU.

Sam Crosby, the executive director of the McKell Institute, reiterated that a bright-future awaits the UK and Australia in the post-Brexit era, stating:

“The relationship between Australia and the UK presents an outstanding opportunity to negotiate a new kind of FTA that delivers real economic benefit, while simultaneously earning a broad social license.

“Free trade, if done right, should bolster living standards and equality. It is up to progressives to make the case for how.”

It is also anticipated that any trading arrangement between the CANZUK countries will incorporate policies of freer movement for citizens, given prior support from senior ministers and the growing public support for CANZUK International’s campaign.

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