Freedom To Grow

Businesses on both sides of the world have welcomed the provisions in the new UK-Australian free trade agreement (FTA). A new report by the Australian British Chamber of Commerce has revealed that the FTA enjoys support from an overwhelming proportion of businesses, with many hailing it as a ground-breaking deal that should improve the way businesses interact across a range of sectors.  

And certainly getting the FTA right matters: the figures show quite how important the trading relationship between the two countries is:  

  • The UK is the 2nd largest international investor in the Australian economy  
  • The UK is the 2nd largest destination for Australian outbound foreign direct investment stock  
  • From 2010 to 2020, the stock of Australian foreign direct investment in the UK almost doubled, reaching A$134.5 BN  

The report goes on to reveal that while the scale of the trading relationship is well known, what has received less coverage, but which could be as important, “Is the forward-looking nature of the agreement. It creates the foundation for an expanded and strengthened partnership for the future.” 

In practice that means reform of the business visa system, of particular interest to those looking to set up in the UK. Under the deal, the new “3 in 6” provisions will enable Australians to stay in the UK for 3 months in any 6-month period, or up to a year to seek investors and partners to support them in establishing a UK branch. This will give them greater freedom to grow and develop their businesses, demonstrating a further commitment that will help shape the market.  

And that was met with enthusiasm, with over 50% of businesses rating professional visa changes as the most important area to create a positive impact to help them grow their business. “Similarly,” the report says, “The ability to rotate business visitors between countries, for three months in any 6-month period, provides a mechanism for companies to balance the experience needs of each country, where scarce resource is an issue.”  

And the FTA has been endorsed by those in business: Diageo Australia’s Managing Director, Angus MacPherson, who remarked: “The FTA will enable us to be more competitive in this market, which will mean we can increase our investment even further in Australia.” While Professor Mary Foley AM, Telstra Health’s Managing Director, added: “This FTA will enable us to move Australia-proven digital Health solutions and talent to the UK and vice versa, to the benefit of both our countries and citizens.”  

According to both the UK and Australian trade departments, the FTA will focus heavily on improving access to skills, capabilities and experience. “That means seamless movement back and forth between the UK and Australia was consistently rated the most important aspect of the FTA by businesses. This reflects the growing skills gap that exists for most Australian companies.  

And the new deal doesn’t only apply to large corporates with exchange programmes. Small businesses can send managers and specialists on corporate transfer for 3 years and independent professionals will be able to spend up to a year on contract.