Canberra, Sep 7 (IANS) Australia and Britain have established a bilateral Trade Working Group to act as a stepping stone towards signing a free trade deal (FTA) once UK exits the European Union (EU).
Following a series of meetings with his British counterpart, Australia's Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said on Wednesday both nations have a desire to secure a free trade deal once the Brexit formally occurs, Xinhua news agency reported.
"We want the Working Group to advance an agenda that will ensure the expeditious transition to FTA negotiations when the UK (Britain) has formally completed its negotiations to exit the EU," Ciobo said in a statement.
"Both of us want a future free trade agreement (FTA) to generate new trade and investment opportunities. We will prioritize consultation and outreach to our respective stakeholders to seek their input to the work of the Working Group. "
Ciobo said the Working Group would not only act as a stepping stone towards a free trade deal between the historically-linked partners, but would also serve to involve Australia in further, plurilateral trade negotiations.
He had agreed to meet with Britain's Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, twice a year until Brexit occurs, Ciobo said.
The first such meeting will take place in early 2017 in Australia, which will be preceded by discussions in Australia later this year.