Britain and Australia have agreed the broad terms of a trade deal that is expected to become a model for Britain’s post-Brexit commercial policy. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison signed off the in-principle agreement on Monday evening. The deal will eliminate tariffs on UK goods, but with a 15-year transition period and quotas.
Liberalisation of some products, such as cheese, will be staged to help the agriculture markets transition.
UK cheese exports to Australia currently face tariffs of up to 20 percent.
East Midlands producer Bradbury Cheese estimated they could add around $1.5million (£1.060million) to the nearly $3million (£2.1million) of cheese it already sells to Australia with a tariff-free deal.
Cheese is something Ms Truss holds dearly and in a recent column, Flora Hutchings, head of external affairs at Best for Britain, explained why the International Trade Secretary is right to do so.
In October, Ms Truss presented Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi with a jar of British Stilton cheese to go along with the signing of the UK.-Japan trade deal.
The cheese became emblematic in negotiations and Mr Motegi’s staff even gave him some for his birthday after Ms Truss wrangled special access for the blue variety and other British cheese — pushing the deal slightly further than what Japan had agreed in its treaty with the EU.
Back in 2014, Ms Truss gave an infamous speech to the Conservative Party Conference in which she highlighted the “disgrace” of Britain importing two-thirds of its cheese.
She said at the time: “Our exports have increased by more than £1billion in the past four years.
“And the results are superb. We are growing wheat more competitively than the Canadian prairies. We are producing more varieties of cheese than the French.
“And we are even selling tea to China: Yorkshire Tea.
“Now, that’s not exactly challenging the automotive or aerospace sectors in terms of scale but there’s good business to be done.
“In 2018, UK cheese exports reached a record £665million, making us one of the top-10 global cheese giants.
“Last year, we slipped back to 11th place in that table but still grew our exports to almost £708million, making cheese our fourth-biggest food export after whisky, salmon and chocolate.
“In short, although it’s all too easy to mock, cheese is big business if you’re in the food game.”
Ms Hutchings noted trade, of course, is a two-way process, and while Britain may export a lot of cheese, it does import even more.
By one calculation, the UK’s cheese trade deficit – how much more the UK imports than exports – is “pretty-much world-beating” at £1billion.
She added: “We need Liz Truss and her team to land a Japanese trade deal, one that covers cars and cheese just like the EU arrangement we’re walking away from.
“But we also, desperately, need a trade deal that covers cars and cheese and a whole lot more besides with our biggest trading partner, the one just over the sea.
“Because one thing is for sure: we cannot have our cheese and eat it.”