AUSTRALIA and the United Kingdom have started negotiations on a free trade agreement.

Trade minister Simon Birmingham said Australia was ready to help the UK find “new beginnings” post Brexit.

“We’ve been preparing for this deal since the UK decided to leave the EU and welcome their agreement to commence negotiations,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Both Australia and the UK want an ambitious and comprehensive agreement that builds on our already significant people-to-people links and creates new opportunities for exporters, generating more jobs in our nations,” he said.

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“This agreement will underpin the future economic relationship between our two countries and send a strong signal of our mutual support for free trade, which will be vital in a post COVID-19 world.”

Mr Birmingham said having more export options could “only be a good thing” for farmers and businesses.

“As both our nations begin to shift our focus towards the economic recovery from COVID-19, a UK-Australia FTA will help to expand choices and export opportunities and secure stronger supply chains to better withstand future shocks,” he said.

“Our ambition is to conclude this deal as quickly as possible, building on the work we began back in 2016 through the establishment of an Australia-UK Trade Working Group.”

According to the minister’s office, the UK is Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner and is also our second-largest source of and destination for investment. The first round of negotiations are to be done virtually, starting 29 June.

Agriculture minister David Littleproud was enthusiastic about the opporunities for trade.

“Australian farmers produce to the highest environmental and animal welfare standards and are rewarded all over the world for their high-quality produce,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The UK is a market with whom we can share products, innovation, and services in agriculture.”

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