A leading body for the food, beverage and grocery manufacturing industry, has welcomed the launch of negotiations between Australia and the UK on a free trade deal, saying it could provide valuable opportunities for the industry.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) said a free trade agreement would help remove barriers to trade with the UK, which is one of the top ten export destinations for the sector.
“The Australia-UK FTA will open up and maintain valuable opportunities for Australian food, grocery and beverage manufacturers exporting their products as well as strengthening supply chains for the future,” acting AFGC CEO Dr Geoffrey Annison said
In 2017-18, total exports for the sector was worth $34.4 billion, with the UK accounting for $816 million of that figure. In the same year, the total imports for the sector from the United Kingdom was $1.7 billion.
“The Australian Food, Grocery and Beverage sector has been working tirelessly to keep the shelves stocked for all Australians and now the sector has confidence to take our safe and innovative products to the UK as trading gets back to normal,” Annison added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that the deal would provide a wonderful opportunity to “supercharge” the economic relationship.
“It will mean more jobs, more growth, more prosperity in both our countries,” he said in a social media video on Wednesday evening.
“And more opportunities for Australian and UK citizens to live and work in each other’s countries, ultimately.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was more focused on getting some of Australia’s well-known food brands on shelves.
“I want a world in which we send you Marmite, you send us Vegemite, we send you Penguins (popular British chocolate biscuit) and you send us, with reduced tariffs, these wonderful Arnott’s Tim Tams,” he said.
“How long can the British people be deprived of the opportunity to have Arnott’s Tim Tams at a reasonable price?”
Arnott’s said on Thursday that it will be making a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade outlining the opportunities to market the brand’s Australian made products through an FTA with the UK.
“We were delighted Mr. Johnson referenced providing our wonderful Arnott’s Tim Tam biscuits to the British people, but we were not surprised, Michelle Foley, chief customer officer said.
“Tim Tam is a national icon of Australian culture and Australia’s number one chocolate biscuit. We are excited about what the potential FTA could mean for Arnott’s in terms of new export opportunities and the chance to build and grow our local manufacturing – with more local jobs in our bakeries and across our supply chain.”
Australia and the UK have been toying with the idea of a possible trade deal since 2016 and have already struck some early agreements that will come into effect from 2021.
But negotiations on a comprehensive deal could not formally start until Brexit took place on January 31.
The government is hopeful of striking a deal by the end of the year, but Trade minister Simon Birmingham warned that was a very short time frame.
In terms of exporters, Senator Birmingham highlighted the case of winemakers.
According to AAP, one in five bottles currently sold in the UK comes from Australia, despite there being a tariff on these products.
“If we can achieve elimination of that tariff, that is going to either mean that our winemakers can … enjoy slightly greater profits, or that they can be even more competitive in that market,” Birmingham said.
The first round of talks between Australian and British negotiators will take place on June 29.