Fast, cheap or good - but not all three

FTA negotiations should reinvent how Australia and the UK do business, say executives on both sides.

Despite the complexity of haggling in intense sessions at either side of the working day, efforts must be made to ensure Australia’s free trade trade deal with Britain is one business could use more broadly, negotiators have said.

David McCredie, CEO of the Australian British Chamber of Commerce in Sydney, said the resolution must be meaningful, not just reassuring.

“Both sides are being made super-aware that the preference of the business community is not to rush it through because you feel you need to,” he said. "It has to be something which is not just the pride and joy of trade negotiators and trade lawyers. It has to be the pride and joy of businesspeople in both countries who want to trade with the other country."

As London counterparts counsel that an agreement is unlikely to be reached in the first half of the year - a point underlined neatly by Catherine Woo, CEO of the Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce in London (“The UK still has a lot on its negotiating plate"), McCredie warned against politicians pushing for a quick wrap, saying a good deal was better than a rushed one.

The traditional FTA sticking point - agriculture - remains the biggest obstacle to a deal as UK farmers grapple with the structural implications and vulnerabilities generated by Brexit rather than exploring export opportunities.

"Aussie farmers will expect a serious dividend from an FTA with Britain, not political window dressing,", former Australian high commissioner to Britain Mike Rann told the Australian Financial Review.

Ms Woo said her chamber's members want a deal that transcends goods trade and accommodates freer movement of skilled people to look at "innovation and the knowledge economy".

"The agreement of mutual rules and co-operation on data flows, e-commerce and digital trade – alignment there could help grow, and in some cases reinvent, how Australia and the UK do business," she explained.

The fourth round of negotiations continue in February.

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