Services, investment key in UK trade pact

·2-min read

Services and investment are "huge" for Australia's imminent trade pact with the United Kingdom, Trade Minister Dan Tehan has told business leaders.

"This will be as ambitious in services and the investment side as we've ever done in a free trade agreement," Mr Tehan told the Australian-British Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

"That is my aim."

Asked about Australia's lack of an emissions target of net zero by 2050, he said it would be easy for the government to adopt it and then ignore it, like other countries around the negotiating table.

"We want to be able to demonstrate that we can do it in a way where we, in particular, take jobs in regional and rural Australia with us to be able to meet it," he said.

"We'll be very upfront and honest about what we can and can't do."

He urged the United Kingdom to build on its hard-fought Brexit and quickly seal a trade deal.

"They should have confidence in who they are and what they've already achieved."

He reminded businesses that the UK, Europe and the rest of the globe were still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, which those wanting skilled migrants needed to remember.

"We need to be very, very careful," he said.

Domestic travel must come first, and the bubble with New Zealand was working well.

"That's the approach we'll take, but we should all have confidence that - one way or another, particularly with what's being done with vaccines - we'll be travelling again," Mr Tehan said.

He dismissed concerns of farmers about Australian meat flooding the market under a free-trade agreement.

UK farmers argue they can't compete with products that don't need to meet their stricter environment and animal welfare standards.

"Liberalisation will benefit both countries," Mr Tehan said, citing the upheavals of 50 years ago when Australia scrambled to find new markets after the UK cut it loose.

He also intends to address "silly" UK regulations on wine.