Australia ‘concerned’ about trade deal after UK turmoil

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday voiced fears that Britain’s political convulsions and the exit of his counterpart Liz Truss could derail a pending trade deal between the two countries.

“I am concerned about any delay that would occur to the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement,” the Australian prime minister said.

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The agreement was finalized in December 2021 to much fanfare, but has yet to be ratified by either country.

Albanese said he had asked Truss -- who now has days left in office before her Conservative party selects a new leader -- to fast-track the ratification process.

“We had discussed trying to get it concluded this year to make sure the appropriate parliamentary processes went through,” the center-left Australian leader said.

“I will of course speak to whoever it is that will become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom about doing that.”

He added a subtle dig at his counterparts in London, which ruled Australia for over a century until 1901.

“I must say, I’ve been in office about five months, I’ve met with two British prime ministers so far, and obviously will have contact with the third.”

Australia is no stranger to political tumult, having seen seven changes of prime minister in 15 years, but rules put in place by both leading parties have stemmed the habit of members ousting their own leaders.

“Here in Australia my government is stable, is orderly, the adults are in charge,” Albanese said.

The UK-Australia accord was the first free trade deal to be signed since Britain’s formal departure from the European Union at the start of 2021.

Britain claimed the deal would unlock annual bilateral trade worth £10.4 billion (US$12.4 billion).

But a cross-party UK parliamentary trade committee warned then-prime minister Boris Johnson against “overselling the benefits”.

The British economy has struggled with fraying ties with its largest trading partners inside the EU.

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