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31 March 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

31 Mar 2023
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Royal Assent given to Aus-UK FTA in UK, 40th anniversary of CER with NZ, Ayres travels to China for Bo’ao Forum, and more.

On 24 March, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Trade Don Farrell jointly issued a statement where they acknowledged that Royal Assent has been given to legislation to bring the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA) into effect in the UK. They referred to the FTA as “a historic agreement” and noted that it is the UK’s first “new free trade deal signed since Brexit.” Albanese and Farrell stated that the FTA “will reset access to the UK market for Australian exporters” and reiterated the benefits of the FTA, including “remov[ing] tariffs on over 99 per cent of the $9.2 billion Australian goods exported to the UK annually” and “revitalis[ing] local manufacturing and provid[ing] new access to the UK’s government procurement market worth an estimated half a trillion dollars annually.” They noted that the FTA will enter into force “after UK processes are complete and Australia and the UK exchange diplomatic notes identifying a commencement date.” Albanese said that the Government “is determined to create more jobs in export industries and lower prices for Australian businesses and consumers” and referred to the FTA as “an unparalleled opportunity to deepen our trade with a top five global economy.” Farrell noted that Australia is “ready to bring the [FTA] into force as soon as possible” and that “our economy is stronger when global trade flows freely and the Australian government is delivering on our commitment to strengthen and diversify our trading relationships.”

Farrell also acknowledged the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement with New Zealand, which he noted is Australia’s “longest standing free trade agreement and [the] foundation of the indispensable trade and economic partnership between Australia and New Zealand.” He also stated that “since the adoption of the agreement in 1983, two-way trans-Tasman trade has increased at an average annual rate of around eight per cent” and that the agreement is “one of the most comprehensive trade agreements in the world, representing $29 billion in two-way trade, and $185 billion in two-way investment in 2021-22.” Farrell concluded by saying that Australia “look[s] forward to the next forty years of open trade across the ditch.”

On 27 March, Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres issued a statement noting that this week he will travel to China for the Bo’ao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2023. He referred to the Forum as providing “a platform for high level dialogue between governments, business, academics and other non-government organisations to discuss regional economic and trade issues.” While at the Forum, Ayres will engage in “a series of meetings to discuss trade and investment” and will also “participate in a panel session exploring the future of clean energy.” Ayres noted he will “use the panel discussion to highlight the Albanese Government’s strong action on climate change which has put us in the front row to capitalise on trade and investment opportunities from the global transition to net zero.” He acknowledged that Australia “is well-positioned to seize the economic and jobs opportunities presented by the global clean energy transformation” and that he “look[s] forward to engaging with senior business and government figures as we work towards maximising the opportunities in the fastest growing region in human history.” Ayres also stated that “the Albanese Government continues to advocate for the timely and full resumption of trade to China, which is in the interests of both countries” and noted that his “participation in the Forum is the first for an Australian Government minister since 2016 and is another important step in the stabilisation of Australia’s relations with China.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a statement on 29 March on political party deregistration in Myanmar, noting that Australia “is seriously concerned about the further narrowing of political space in Myanmar resulting from the imposition and requirements of the new Political Party Registration Law.” DFAT said that “any political process in Myanmar that excludes participation by a broad range of stakeholders will not lead to a genuinely representative outcome, and risks further violence and instability” and “urge[d] the regime to ensure all stakeholders can participate in Myanmar’s democratic future, and that all voices can be heard.”

Isabella Keith is a weekly columnist for Australian Outlook. She is also a Research Assistant, Sessional Academic, and Honours student in Law at the Australian National University, with a focus on international law. Isabella attended the AIIA #NextGen study tour to South Korea last year, and was also a delegate to the AIIA’s Australia-Korea-New Zealand and Australia-United States-Japan Policy Forums. She can be found on Twitter here.

This article is published under a Creative Commons License and may be republished with attribution.