Sweet deal for exporters, consumers as UK deal starts

The free-trade deal between Australia and the UK has exporters buzzing ā€“ and it will provide sweet deals for some local buyers too.

Australian producers of wine, beef, sheep meat, grains, rice, sugar, honey and dairy products will all benefit from duty-free quotas or tariff elimination.

Local consumers will also pay less for some British products, including cars, whisky, confectionery, biscuits and cosmetics.

Capilano Honey is one of the largest suppliers of pure honey in the world and hopes to make inroads under the agreement, which kicks in on Wednesday.

The UK imports about 90 per cent of its honey and is one of the largest consumers of the sweet product worldwide.

ā€œThe success of honey bees in Australia is chiefly due to our unique native eucalypt forests, which provide pollen and nectar throughout the season, maximising hive health and nutrition,ā€ chief operating officer Ben McKee said.

ā€œAustraliaā€™s island existence and geographical isolation mean our honey bees survive without the complications of many of the honey bee diseases that require repeated pesticide and antibiotic treatments elsewhere in the world.ā€

Rice-growers also expect a windfall, with tariffs on short- and medium-grain rice eliminated.

ā€œWeā€™re delighted to now have tariff-free access to the important UK market,ā€ SunRice chief executive officer Rob Gordon said.

ā€œWe can shift our products into this market to get the best possible return for our growers ā€¦ that means more money in the farmerā€™s pocket.ā€

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the free-trade agreement provided big benefits for agriculture.

ā€œThe agreement is one of the most comprehensive, innovative and ambitious (agreements) Australia has signed with any trading partner ā€“ and it will provide a foundation for greater profits for Australian producers,ā€ he said.

More than 99 per cent of Australian products will be able to enter the UK duty-free.

ā€œTariffs on goods such as wine, short and medium grain rice, honey, olive oil and nuts will be eliminated immediately,ā€ Senator Watt said.

ā€œDuty-free transitional quotas will be established for beef, sheep meat, wheat, barley, sugar and dairy, providing instant benefits for Australian farming communities.

ā€œThis is a huge achievement and a great win for Australian agriculture and our farmers.ā€

The UK is Australiaā€™s 12th-largest trading partner, with two-way goods trade worth $10 billion in 2022 and two-way services trade worth $4.4b in 2021/22.

It is Australiaā€™s second-largest source of foreign direct investment, amounting to more than $1 trillion in 2022.

Manufactured products such as auto parts and electrical equipment, as well as cosmetic products, will also receive a boost through the immediate elimination of UK tariffs.

The free-trade deal also includes migration rule changes, including the right for young people on working holiday visas to stay for longer in each country.

Trade Minister Don Farrell said the agreement was a major step in diversifying trade.

ā€œMore trade means more well-paying jobs, more national income, more opportunities for business and a lower cost of living,ā€ he said.

The agreement, which comes into effect ahead of Prime Minister Anthony Albaneseā€™s four-day visit to Singapore and Vietnam for trade talks from Thursday, has also been welcomed by the national farmersā€™ federation.

ā€œWeā€™ve certainly gained some solid trade ground recently, with the UK (agreement) coming into effect and the prime ministerā€™s visit to Vietnam and Singapore this week,ā€ the federationā€™s Tony Mahar said.

ā€œWe support these talks and outcomes that build on the gains with other trading partners like the EU, India and China.ā€

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Liv Casben and Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)

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