Australia

Australian PM arrives in UK ahead of G7

Australia is on the cusp of inking a free trade deal with the United Kingdom where Scott Morrison is to touch down for the first G7 summit in two years.

Farmers’ access to Britain has been a key sticking point in negotiations with UK agriculture groups worried about Australian beef and lamb flooding the market.

Australia has rubbished the claim, while the National Farmers’ Federation estimates 0.15 per cent of all beef exports go to the UK.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, who launched negotiations when he held the trade portfolio, signalled a deal was close.

“We are very, very close to an in-principle agreement around the terms of a free trade agreement between Australian and the United Kingdom being settled,” he told Sky News on Friday.

Senator Birmingham said Australia viewed agricultural market access as crucial to any trade deal.

“What we’re looking for there is to have as open a market as is absolutely possible for Australian goods to enter as free from tariffs and as free from quotas,” he said.

The prime minister is due to land in the UK in the early hours of Saturday morning AEST ahead of the summit of world leaders in Cornwall.

After G7 he will meet with British PM Boris Johnson in London where trade talks are set to top the agenda.

At the conference, Mr Morrison will sit down with other world leaders and attend sessions on health, the economy and climate change over the course of the weekend.

He is expected to meet US President Joe Biden, Japanese leader Yoshihide Suga and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in.

“There has never been a more important time for Australia to be at the table with the world’s largest liberal democracies and advanced economies,” Mr Morrison said.

“The global pandemic and the recession it has caused means like-minded countries and businesses need to work together to lead the global recovery to restore lives and livelihoods.

“There is a lot at stake for Australia, the region and the world.”

While Mr Morrison is not expected to make any new commitments on climate, Australia is facing calls to support carbon tariffs on emissions-intensive imports.

However, the prime minister considers any form of carbon tariff to be against Australia’s national interest.

Mr Morrison is keen to focus on preparedness for future pandemics, business-led growth, free and fair trade and the international rules-based order.

Ahead of the conference, the prime minister held a face-to-face meeting with Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore is expected to be the second country after New Zealand to establish a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia but a new arrangement remains months away.

The Singaporean prime minister indicated the travel bubble would not be approved until the majority of populations in both countries had been vaccinated.

Australia lags behind Singapore in the vaccination process, having fully immunised less than three per cent of the adult population.

Just under half the 4.7 million population in Singapore has been fully vaccinated with both doses.

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