Australian High Commission
United Kingdom
Australia House, London

Interview between High Commissioner Brandis and Justin Webb on the BBC4 Today programme

New Broadcasting House

London, United Kingdom

04 February 2020 at 7.16AM GMT


JOURNALIST: What does it [an Australian style trading relationship with the European Union] mean? What is the state of your trading relationship with the EU?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: Well at the moment Australia is in the course of negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU. Those negotiations are underway at the moment. So the ultimate end state of the trading relationship between Australia and the EU will be the outcome of that negotiation. Which, as I said, is underway at the moment and will be some little while before it is finalised.

JOURNALIST: And that tells us that you are not satisfied with the current relationship – you think it could be and should be improved?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: Well, like the Prime Minister [Boris Johnson], the Australian Prime Minister [Scott Morrison] is a very strong advocate for, and believer in, free trade. I must say, your Prime Minister’s clarion call for free trade in his speech yesterday morning was music to Australian ears. We have been a free trading nation for many decades now, free trade has been a great driver of Australian prosperity. This year we enter our 29th consecutive year of economic growth and that is in large measure due to us adopting a free trade policy and I – and the Australian Government -- are delighted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government sees the world the same way.

JOURNALIST: I’ll come back to the practical implications of what that might be. On the EU, you’re perfectly clear you would like the relationship to be different. Your relationship at the moment is that there are tariffs and quotas -- so when Boris Johnson talks about a similar relationship as Australia’s it is a relationship with a lot of friction? That’s fair to say isn’t it?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: Well, I’m not going to be a commentator or an interpreter of Mr Johnson’s comments --

JOURNALIST:     No – but just tell us the facts, when Australia exports stuff to the European Union there are tariffs. Aren’t there?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: We are moving to a free trade agreement ---

JOURNALIST:     Yes – but at the moment?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: At the moment, the relationship is an amalgam of WTO terms and various technical sectoral agreements -- for example the nuclear energy sector, in relation to wine exports – there are certain particular sectors governed by their own agreements. Where there are not sectoral agreements, then we trade on WTO terms. We are moving beyond that to a free trade agreement for all the reasons Mr Johnson outlined yesterday.

JOURNALIST:     That’s very clear. Turning to what Mr Johnson said yesterday, and the relationship between Australia and Britain, one of the things Mr Johnson talked a lot about is exports. I didn’t hear him talk so much about imports, which is the other side of proper free trade – what would Australia like to export to Britain freely that you can’t at the moment?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: Both governments are committed to a very ambitious free trade agreement. Free trade agreements are about four things: goods, services, capital and people. The formal negotiation of the UK-Australia FTA agreement is yet to commence, we expect it to commence imminently. I don’t want to tie the hands of the negotiators by identifying particular criteria beyond reminding you, Justin, and reminding your listeners that both governments are very ambitious for the free trade agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom to be as comprehensive as it can be.

JOURNALIST:     That means agriculture, doesn’t it?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: Well agriculture is always part of an FTA.

JOURNALIST:     Always part of an FTA? So, an FTA between Australia and Britain would involve Britain importing much more from Australia when it came to agriculture?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: Again, for reasons you will understand, I don’t want to get ahead of the negotiations. Australia is a very big agricultural exporter – as is the United Kingdom – naturally, because that sector is a big part of both economies that will be a relevant matter in the negotiations.

JOURNALIST:     How easy is it going to be do you think?

HIGH COMMISSIONER BRANDIS: We think an FTA between Australia and the UK can be wrapped up relevantly swiftly. I am pleased the Prime Minister indicated and reaffirmed we will be one of the first four countries, beyond the EU, of which the UK is keen to finalise an FTA with. The negotiations are about to commence imminently, without putting a deadline on them which would of course be unwise, an FTA with Australia is one of the less complex the UK is likely to do.


04 February 2020 at 7.21AM GMT