HURST tax partner Adrian Young

A free trade agreement between the UK and Australia could be a springboard that gives north west firms a stronger foothold in the wider Asia-Pacific region, says an international business expert.

Adrian Young, a tax partner at accounting and business advisory firm HURST, said Australia was an ‘exciting’ market in itself, and that a free trade agreement would encourage more north west entrepreneurs to consider it as a business destination.

But he said the benefits of an FTA could extend beyond Australia, by giving UK companies access to other markets through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

This is a free trade agreement between Australia and 10 other countries, and the UK has formally requested accession to it.

Adrian said: “I see this as part of the UK’s post-Brexit engagement with markets beyond the EU.

“That’s not to say that the EU won’t remain the north west’s key trading partner, rather that the UK is now dipping its toes more confidently in the Pacific. I expect that’s what the government is banking on, longer-term.

“In the shorter term, I think the plan will be to show real progress before the G7 Summit, which the UK is hosting next month.”

He said north west businesses were closely following developments with Australia, with major regional companies having invested there in recent years.

Adrian added: “The focus has been very much on farming and the economic challenges to local farming communities posed by tariff-free meat imports.

“And, in an echo of the US chlorinated chicken debate, concern has also been raised in north west farming circles about differing animal welfare and food standards.

“Australia, meanwhile, sees that it has much to gain, with unfettered access to the large and wealthy UK consumer market.

“Undoubtedly, the deal on its own is not going to be transformational for either the UK or the north west. However, it may well give the UK a stronger foothold in the Asia-Pacific region and possible future access to the Pacific.

“There is a strong political desire for an agreement, showing that Brexit can work and as both economies strive hard to recover from coronavirus.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.