Lawyers laud Australia-UK free trade agreement

Agreement includes first-of-its-kind legal regulatory dialogue

Lawyers laud Australia-UK free trade agreement

The Australia-UK free trade agreement (FTA) has entered into force effective May 31, 2023, garnering applause from both ends of the deal. While the comprehensive trade agreement aims to grow the broader economies of both countries, the legal profession has much to gain in particular from the FTA, which establishes a legal services regulatory dialogue composed of representatives from the legal professions of each country, including regulatory bodies and professional associations.

The Law Council of Australia, the Law Admissions Consultative Committee, and the Legal Services Council and Admissions Committee established under the Legal Profession Uniform Law, have all been named members of the dialogue under the Australia-UK FTA.

“The dialogue will provide an important opportunity to consider contemporary approaches to enhance legal services trade and professional mobility of lawyers, which is presently hindered by limited recognition of professional qualifications, and complex and time-consuming requirements for requalification,” Law Council president Luke Murphy said. “… The skills and expertise of experienced Australian and UK legal practitioners will be essential to realising the economic opportunities of the agreement for both Australian and UK businesses and professional services providers.”

Apart from constructing a more seamless process for the recognition of locally issued licenses across Australia and the UK, the legal services regulatory dialogue will also be used to study possible law business vehicles in each country, a matter of particular interest to legal practitioners in the UK.

“We hope [the dialogue] will give us the opportunity to address some of the barriers that UK lawyers and law firms face operating in Australia in future,” said Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, which was likewise named a member of the legal services regulatory dialogue. “[These barriers include] seeking greater recognition of qualifications and business structures for law firms working in Australia, including the UK limited liability partnership. The dialogue is the first of its kind established under an FTA. Depending on its outcomes, we hope this can serve as a useful model to be replicated in other subsequent trade agreements.”

More broadly, the Australia-UK FTA also makes it easier for Australians to live and work in the UK, the Law Society of NSW reported. By 2025, Australians aged 35 and under will be allowed to apply for a working holiday visa in the UK effective for three years instead of two. Eligibility for a UK working holiday visa previously required the Australian applicant to be 30 years old or younger. Australian exporters would enjoy enhanced access to the UK market, with tariff exemptions for over 99% of Australian goods.

“This trade agreement will remove unnecessary barriers to trade between our two countries and open up new markets for our world-class goods and services,” Minister for Trade and Tourism Senator Don Farrell was quoted as saying. “Our economy is stronger when global trade flows freely. [The] Australian government is delivering on our commitment to strengthen and diversify our trading relationships.”

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