A balanced and effective IP regime is an essential element of a vibrant and creative economy and an effective global trading system, providing confidence and protection for investors, entrepreneurs, inventors and creators to turn new ideas and innovations into products and services, contributing to economic growth. At the same time, it ensures consumers are clear about the origins and quality of products that they buy. The UK has a balanced and effective IP regime that is widely recognised as world-leading and respondents expressed the importance of maintaining this. A UK-Australia FTA serves as an opportunity to promote this balance between rights holders, users and consumers and to continue to set global standards.
The government notes the views expressed on the potential inclusion of investment protection and as associated Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. The government believes that UK investors operating in Australia should receive the same standard of treatment as Australian investors investing in the UK. The government notes the views that have been expressed on ISDS and is clear that that any legal mechanism for resolving investment disputes must reflect modern approaches, deliver fair outcomes of claims, require high ethical standards for arbitrators, and include transparent proceedings. The government will ensure that its right to regulate in the public interest continues to be protected, particularly with regard to the environment and provision of public services.
Twenty-four businesses asked for the UK government to prioritise tariffs in a future FTA with Australia. Eleven businesses called for the removal or reduction of tariffs, citing the opportunities this could bring from increased trade between both countries, with one respondent noting that promoting electronic commerce (e-commerce) could be one such opportunity. Responses included requests for reductions on specific tariffs, such as for grain, or their removal for products such as raw cane sugar and wine. Many respondents called for any changes to tariffs to be fair to both the UK and Australia and not negatively impact UK industries or agriculture. A need to respect the WTO Pharmaceutical Tariff Elimination Agreement was also raised (to note, Australia is already a participant). Some respondents asked for any future trade negotiation to aim for trade liberalisation for all products manufactured by the life sciences industry. Seven businesses expressed general concerns, with one commenting specifically about the potential significant impact on the affordability of UK products and competitiveness. There were concerns about whether the outcome of negotiations between the UK and Australia would be fair and equal.
Respondents, particularly businesses and business associations, tended to highlight the importance of RoO for current global supply chains, including those involving the EU. A common theme among business association respondents, who expressed views on behalf of their members, was to call for further simplification and support in understanding RoO. Comments were also raised by respondents in this section on Geographical Indications (GIs) however, in an FTA, GIs are contained within the IP chapter and therefore have been considered in that section.
Public sector bodies expressed concerns that an FTA could potentially lead to the privatisation of public services. One public sector body called for the uncertainties and timeframes surrounding visa applications to be addressed, flagging the benefits that reciprocal business visas could bring to both the Australian and UK businesses and markets. There was also a comment about excluding public services, including the NHS, from the scope of FTAs.
A recurring theme of the feedback was the need for free flow of data, with respondents highlighting the importance of effective data protection and the need to prevent data localisation. There was general support for global rather than national responses to the tax challenges of digitisation and for rules on digital goods not being a barrier to trade. With regards to telecommunications respondents, many respondents wanted to enhance non-discrimination clauses to protect net neutrality and ensure better market competition. Some respondents also used the consultation as an opportunity to express their opposition to any changes to current EU platform liability rules.
Respondents were also in favour of the UK being involved in international co-operation related to development of international standards which could be then applied by the UK and its partner countries. Some respondents supported greater co-operation towards recognition of the equivalence of applied technical regulations and standards to facilitate trade. One respondent was in favour of alignment between the quality mark of the British Standards Institution (Kitemark) with an Australian equivalent to facilitate marking and recognition of high-quality products which are safe for consumers. Three businesses expressed concerns which focused mainly on the need to prevent low quality imports that do not meet UK standards and regulations from entering the UK. There was also unease around the amount of regulation and bureaucracy connected with the adoption of national product standards and the effect of a lack of harmonisation with standards used internationally.
Thirty-three business associations viewed product standards, regulation and certification as being a priority for a future FTA with Australia and 18 expressed concerns. Many respondents stressed a need for simplified procedures and reduced regulatory and administrative burden, particularly for SMEs. For example, through mutual recognition of inspection results, while at the same time balancing this with the need to maintain high standards, and not permit imported products which do not adhere to these. Some respondents also highlighted the importance of the UK remaining aligned with standards and regulations used in the EU. Continued alignment with standards and regulations used in the EU including co-operation with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) was flagged as a top priority for the pharmaceutical industry associations who responded.
Three public sector bodies prioritised standards, regulation and certification in their comments. All comments called for harmonisation or mutual recognition of standards with Australia, in technology and manufacturing sectors, as well as regarding medical devices, medicines and non-medical consumables. One public sector body respondent expressed concerns about the impact of changes to the environmental standards of production.
Twenty-two business associations referenced SPS measures as being a priority in their response and 18 as a concern. Several respondents advocated the use in an FTA with Australia of EU SPS measures recently agreed with third countries, as well as the continued alignment of UK standards with those applicable in the EU. Some respondents highlighted the importance of food safety regulation being risk-based, minimally burdensome and able to facilitate competition and innovation. There was also a call for the UK Government to consider more carefully the impact on SMEs. Seven respondents emphasised the importance of maintaining and improving standards, including on animal welfare. One organisation expressed concern about a potential reduction of UK standards and the negative impact for domestic producers. Representatives of some sectors, eg cheese and meat (notably beef) highlighted difficulties in exporting these products to Australia on sanitary grounds. Respondents were of the view that the UK government should address these barriers in negotiations.
Two public sector bodies prioritised SPS and three expressed concerns relating to food standards which included the potential consequences for the public. One respondent, with an interest in the fishing sector, highlighted that SPS requirements (regarding seafood) in the UK and Australia are already largely aligned through existing SPS arrangements between the EU and Australia. One respondent flagged their concerns for farming producers in their area that might be negatively impacted by a significant increase of Australian produce in the UK market at a time of transition for the farming sector.
Thirteen NGO respondents viewed competition as a priority in their comments, and 16 raised concerns. Many NGOs advocated free trade and opening the UK market up to competition in all aspects of the economy. Several NGOs expressed concerns that high domestic standards and therefore relatively high compliance costs applicable to UK enterprises (food producers) might put them in a disadvantaged position, compared to Australian competitors. There were also comments addressing healthcare and social services, including concerns about competitive tendering and liberalised procurement rules.
Four public sector respondents referenced competition as being a priority in their comments and four respondents expressed concern. Comments included being able to promote competition, which could boost growth and investment across financial markets. Other respondents made requests for mechanisms addressing anti-competitive behaviour to be developed and to ensure the potential impact on domestic businesses of competition is fully understood and mitigated. There were also comments focused on healthcare and social services, including concerns about liberalised procurement rules and competitive tendering.
Eight NGO respondents had government procurement as a priority and eight respondents raised it as a concern in their comments. Many respondents called for clauses in the agreement to ensure the UK government and other public authorities could prioritise purchases from local suppliers (eg food industry), pursue social and environmental objectiv