PM to visit UK to push trade deal, talk Commonwealth nations' futures

Published: 16 April 2018 Image credit: Reuters

Ministers

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will arrive in London tomorrow to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), with the PM also set to meet with leaders to discuss a free trade agreement.

Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop are expected to meet with a number of leaders and ministers from 53 Commonwealth countries to discuss the "prosperous, safe, fair and sustainable future" of the Commonwealth nations.

Mr Turnbull will also meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss a free trade agreement with the European Union.

“I believe in free trade because free trade creates jobs. That is the message I will be taking to Europe, as we fight for more opportunities for Australian exporters,” Mr Turnbull said in a statement.

Aside from being Australia’s second-largest trading partner, the EU is Australia’s third largest export destination, and second largest services export market.

It is also the only trading partner with which Australia has not launched FTA negotiations.

FTA negotiations with the EU would mean that Australia has access to a significant market that is keen for products produced in Australia.

Australia reportedly exported more than $30 billion worth of goods and services to the EU in 2016-17.

Discussions will also be held over the need for investment and good governance as well as cybersecurity issues.

The Prime Minister’s trip comes at a crucial time, following the chemical weapons attacks in Syria and against former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal in the UK.

The attacks have sparked a strong and united response from Australia and its allies.

"We will discuss ongoing threats from terrorism, foreign interference, and malicious cyber actors, as well as the uncertainty in the Korean Peninsula," he said.

Negotiations with the UK are scheduled to start once it formally completes Brexit.

Mr Turnbull will also meet separately with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before opening the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers Bretonneux with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

Minister Julie Bishop will meet with foreign ministers to discuss the recent use of a military grade nerve agent used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

“Australia will be encouraging Commonwealth leaders to resist protectionism by making strong and practical statements in support of a free and open rules-based trading system,” Ms Bishop said in a statement.

She will also address the Commonwealth Business Forum and participate in the Malaria Summit to discuss international efforts to combat malaria.