Australia “optimistic” about FTA with Britain following election result

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CANBERRA, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Negotiations on an Australia-Britain free trade agreement (FTA) are set to accelerate following the Conservatives’ victory in the British election.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told News Corp Australia on Monday that he spoke to his re-elected British counterpart Boris Johnson on Saturday night and agreed to fast-track trade negotiations, with a final deal potentially being struck within 12 months.

Along with the United States, Australia is expected to be one of the first countries to sign a trade agreement with Britain once Brexit has been ratified.

“We had a discussion about the FTA … and we are ready to engage on it with him,” Morrison said of Johnson on Monday.

“He had it high on the list of things to do and he was optimistic. We are very aspirational in what we can achieve,” Morrison added.

Formal negotiations on an FTA between the two countries can only begin after Britain leaves the European Union (EU), which Johnson has declared will happen on Jan. 31.

The deal can be negotiated and signed during the one-year Brexit transition period and then come into effect the day after the transition period ends.

Simon Birmingham, Australia’s minister for trade, tourism and investment, told the Australian Financial Review that a bilateral working group has been exploring a potential FTA for two years.

“This working group will mean we are well-positioned to kick off formal negotiations as soon as the UK is in a position to do so,” he said.

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