Boris John­son lends sup­port to Aus­tralia-uk free trade deal

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World -

BRI­TISH For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son said on Thurs­day that he sup­ports a pro­posed free trade agree­ment be­tween the United King­dom and Aus­tralia, as his coun­try looks to strengthen its re­la­tion­ships with al­lies ahead of Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union.

John­son and his Aus­tralian coun­ter­part, For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop, an­nounced the two na­tions would boost their trade, in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing and mil­i­tary ties fol­low­ing an an­nual meet­ing in Syd­ney that in­cluded the de­fense min­is­ters of both coun­tries.

“As we go through the process of leav­ing the ar­range­ments of the Euro­pean Union, we are go­ing to widen our horizons and work even more closely,” John­son told re­porters. “We have to­day reaf­firmed our shared goal of con­clud­ing a free trade agree­ment as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter we leave the EU.”

John­son, who had ad­vo­cated for Bri­tain’s EU de­par­ture, said any deal would in­clude an “open and gen­er­ous” visa regime for Aus­tralians look­ing to travel to the U.K.

“What we will be able to do once we take back con­trol of our im­mi­gra­tion ar­range­ments is to have a sys­tem that is fair,” he said. “We want to wel­come tal­ented Aus­tralians.”

The min­is­ters were short on specifics over what im­pact a trade deal would have, though John­son did have an an­swer for a Bri­tish jour­nal­ist who asked whether it would re­sult in cheaper Aus­tralian wine for Bri­tons.

“Never mind Aus­tralian wine, which is, of course, de­li­cious,” John­son said. “There are tar­iffs on Scotch whisky in this coun­try which seem to me to amount to a cruel de­pri­va­tion of the Aus­tralian peo­ple of Scotch whisky at the price they could have it. I merely throw it out there. Whereas I don’t think we have any tar­iffs at all on, for in­stance, Bund­aberg Rum.”

Thurs­day’s min­is­te­rial meet­ing also fo­cused on coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts and the nu­clear threat posed by North Korea. Both Bri­tish De­fense Sec­re­tary Michael Fal­lon and Aus­tralian De­fense Min­is­ter Maris Payne urged China to use its in­flu­ence over North Korea to help de-es­ca­late the cri­sis.

“China has to en­gage,” Fal­lon said. “With in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence comes re­spon­si­bil­ity. It is now for Bei­jing to use the in­flu­ence it has over the North Korean regime to get it to aban­don its pro­gram.”

In a lighter moment, the fa­mously jovial John­son made a point to thank Bishop an avid run­ner for giv­ing him a gift in­tended to help his own jog­ging reg­i­men.

“Some­body brought you news I had been out jog­ging over the last cou­ple of morn­ings in your won­der­ful Botanic Gar­dens in Syd­ney and you were kind enough just now to give me a very beau­ti­ful pair of com­pres­sion tights as worn by Hugh Jack­man, I’m given to un­der­stand,” John­son said. “So thank you, Julie.” – AP

Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop (right) puts her arm around Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son as he speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Syd­ney on July 27. Photo: AP

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