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An historic free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and the United Kingdom will strengthen the UK’s investment in Australian commodities, while providing easier access for mining businesses to trade equipment and services.

Facilitating a strong trading relationship between the nations was key to both parties, as the UK was Australia’s second largest source of foreign investment in 2020.

The most valuable exports from Australia to the UK in 2019-20 were gold ($12.7 billion), lead ($468 million) and coal ($214 million).

The United Kingdom’s total interest in Australia was more than $778 billion in the 2019-20 financial year.

Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) chief executive officer Tania Constable said the agreement would enhance the Australian mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector.

“Modern investment rules under the AU-UK FTA will encourage further investment between both countries, while clear dispute settlement processes and commitments to enhance digital trade and address non-tariff barriers will be good for METS businesses,” Constable said.

“Australia’s minerals industry and the UK’s industrial sector already have strong partnerships based on a highly developed two-way trade and investment relationship.”

The negotiations also targeted job creation.

As operations Australia-wide deal with labour shortages, the FTA eased limitations on working visas, lifting the age limit from 30 to 35.

Currently, 90 per cent of Australia’s imports from Northern Ireland are machinery and manufacturing goods, many of which support Australia’s mining and quarrying sectors.

The new FTA will remove some relevant tariffs on these goods, simplifying customs procedures for businesses.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) outlined its objectives going into the agreement.

One objective aimed to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to the table in trading with the United Kingdom.

“Australia is seeking to agree on ambitious rules that assist small and medium-sized enterprises to take advantage of the benefits of this agreement,” the DFAT website stated.

Technologically, Australia has continued to play its part in funding and developing innovations for an efficient and sustainable future.

Constable said the FTA will allow for such innovations to be shared and developed more easily and in partnership.

“The ability to innovate, quickly adopt and adapt technologies keeps Australian mining efficient and internationally competitive,” Constable said.

“The AU-UK FTA’s digital trade and intellectual property provisions will boost innovation and drive further economic growth through technology-led productivity gains.”

The negotiations were launched on June 17 2020 and were agreed upon in-principle on June 15 2021, almost a year to the day.