A number of comments focused on the potential benefits of reducing or eliminating tariffs between the United Kingdom and Australia. It was felt that this could further improve trade between the two countries and that it should be a key priority for a future free trade agreement until Australia benefits more than the United Kingdom. Stakeholders stressed the importance of protecting certain sectors by maintaining existing tariffs. In particular, stakeholders drew attention to the fact that a reduction in tariffs (and a broader free trade agreement) could have implications for certain sectors, such as agriculture. Some stakeholders recommended maintaining or reducing tariffs in these sectors over time in order to deal with negative effects on UK industry. British exporters could benefit from the removal or reduction of tariffs on British products exported to Australia, which would strengthen the competitiveness of British products in the Australian market. Improved competitiveness in the Australian market is expected to lead UK companies to increase production and trade. The need for free data flow has been a recurring theme of feedback, with interviewees stressing the importance of effective data protection and the need to prevent data relocation. Global and non-national responses to the fiscal challenges posed by digitization and that digital goods rules are not a barrier to trade have been generally supported. With regard to telecommunications interviewees, many respondents wanted to improve non-discrimination clauses in order to protect net neutrality and improve competition in the market. Some also took advantage of the consultation to express their opposition to any changes to existing EU legislation on platform liability.
Thirteen NGOs considered trade in services to be a priority, and several called for smooth trade in services. Some NGOs have called for the inclusion of MRPQs in a section of services for a potential free trade agreement between Britain and Australia, including quotas and licences. Some NGOs saw the greatest opportunity to increase trade in services, with one saying that the difference in time zones is advantageous, as services and assistance can be provided by different offices and across time zones, which stimulates the globalised service sector. The NGOs also stated that the UK was at the forefront of financial services and called for the UK`s high regulatory requirements to be protected. Thirteen NGOs expressed concern about a number of service-related issues, including ISDS and the lack of transparency in possible negotiations. One NGO expressed concern about the limited role of decentralized administrations, whereby future trade agreements could address decentralized issues. Respondents also spoke about the importance of protecting public services, including the NHS. Overall, the free trade agreement appears to be a reasonable agreement that both countries want, albeit for different reasons.
The effects of the free trade agreement may not be as profound as those proposed by its architects, but the agreement could certainly improve the remaining pain points. In any event, it is difficult to oppose an agreement that aims to bring two countries closer to liberalized economies and strong cultural ties, particularly in our highly competitive world, with the challenges of globalized trade and many unknown risks looming.