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Australian trade minister ‘absolutely confident’ of deal with UK

Written by on 23 April 2021

Australia and Britain are heading towards a free trade deal during two days of talks in London.

This is despite British trade secretary Liz Truss having to apologise to her Australian counterpart as talks began.

Her staff had briefed against Dan Tehan saying he was inexperienced and holding up progress, despite having 20 years experience in trade negotiations.

Mr Tehan told Sky News: “I was very pleased that Liz rang and apologised when I landed in London with regards to that article.

“There’s tit-for-tat when it comes to trade diplomacy, obviously you’ll get people behind the scenes trying to push buttons here and there.”

He added: “These discussions aren’t about us, these discussions are about our two nations… there’s been real warmth in our discussions this morning.”

Dan Tehan told Sky News he is 'absolutely confident' of a deal Image: Mr Tehan told Sky News he is ‘absolutely confident’ of a deal

Ms Truss had been reported to have threatened to put Mr Tehan in an “uncomfortable seat” for nine hours to force him to step up what her people called the glacial pace of negotiations.

In the end she furnished him with an agreeable enough mahogany chair for talks that will be spread out over two days.

The talks are the first face to negotiations between the two sides which have been virtual during the pandemic. The facetime seems to be accelerating progress.

Mr Tehan told Sky News they are going well.

“I am confident that we can get the deal done, it’s just a matter of sitting down and working through all the detail.

“They are quite complex and there are some sensitive issues, but the most important thing is that both countries come to the table in very good faith, wanting to improve the economic integration between our two nations.

“I’m absolutely confident that we can get a deal done.”

Liz Truss phoned Dan Tehan to apologise for comments she made Image: Ms Truss phoned Dan Tehan to apologise for comments she made

Mr Tehan, who worked as a barman in a pub outside Canterbury while a student in Kent University, said a deal would lead to a jobs bonanza for Australians and Britain.

He said: “If you look at our record and the free trade agreements that we’ve negotiated, in every instance they have enhanced and grown the economic relationship, they’ve enhanced and grown exports between the economies that we’ve entered into free trade agreements with.”

He added: “I’m a very firm believer it’s fantastic for the economy, and as importantly it’s fantastic for jobs, and that’s going to be really important as we come out of this pandemic.”

A deal with the Australia is an important part of the British government’s post-Brexit trade strategy.

It has negotiated deals with countries the UK already traded with as part of the EU.

Japan is the only country with which it has negotiated a deal differing from an existing EU deal.

And seeks the same with New Zealand, Australia and the US.

But the benefits should not be overstated. It’s estimated a trade deal with Australia could increase British GDP by as little as 0.002 percent.

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