The recent trade agreement signed between Australia and the UK has been receiving mixed reactions. To say this trade deal is lopsided would be an understatement. The Australians appear to have gotten all they wanted, while British trade analysts are baffled as to why Prime Minister Boris Johnson's team has agreed to such a deal.
The agreement eliminates tariffs on Australian imports to an almost unprecedented extent. For some reason, the deal eliminates all taxes and quotas except those on long-grain rice. Of course, Australia has agreed to reduce tariffs on British goods, which were almost nonexistent to begin with. The deal does not need to be approved by Parliament, though there should be an independent impact assessment being conducted.
While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australian farmers may be pleased with the new deal, others are not. Environmentalists and animal rights activists have called the deal "catastrophic." Australia has much lower standards for the treatment of livestock and environmental practices than the UK has, and even more importantly, than the European Union (EU). Even individuals who are unconcerned about the welfare of livestock find this highly concerning. Johnson and his fellow Brexit supporters have long asserted that Brexit would not result in a decrease in the quality of food supplied to British citizens.
Now, not only does that not appear to be the case, but it also raises major concerns for the EU, which is far stricter about what food imports it allows. This not only aggravates the EU, but it also exacerbates the Northern Ireland crisis. Many Northern Irish people are already dissatisfied with the Northern Ireland Protocol, and they may now find themselves even more isolated from the rest of the UK. If the currently open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is to remain open, the EU will not want lower-quality meat from Australia entering the EU through Northern Ireland.
What exactly accounts for the UK’s apparent error remains unknown. Are they too preoccupied with negotiating a slew of post-Brexit agreements, especially with the US and several Gulf States? Or do they simply not care about the implications this deal could have on their relationship with the EU? In any case, despite the possible negative political and environmental ramifications, the absence of tariffs may mean easier sailing for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) wishing to do business between the UK and Australia.
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