UK on verge of ratifying free-trade deal with Australia

Containers are stacked at the Port of Felixstowe
Containers are stacked at the Port of Felixstowe, Britain, January 28, 2021. Picture taken January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

SYDNEY, March 8 (Reuters) - The United Kingdom is set to ratify a controversial free-trade agreement with Australia as soon as this month, the country's High Commissioner to Australia said on Wednesday.

Signed in 2021, the deal has been criticized by some UK officials for being "one-sided", including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak when on the campaign trail for the top job last year.

British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell said on Tuesday the deal should return to the House of Commons from the House of Lords by March 12th or 13th where it would need another two or three weeks to pass. Further debate could delay the process, she added.

"The moment that is done, because you beat us to it at the end of your last sitting week of the last calendar year, if both countries having completed our parliamentary processes, it should come into effect pretty soon afterwards."

Australia ratified the agreement last November.

The agreement will remove tariffs and harmonise rules and standards on bilateral trade, which hit A$29 billion ($19 billion)in 2019-2020.

The deal was projected in 2021 to boost trade by over 10 billion pounds ($11.8 billion) "in the long run", opening up sectors like agriculture and allowing freer movement for service-sector professionals.

The deal comes into force 30 days after both parties notify each other of parliamentary ratification or on another mutually agreed date.

($1 = 1.5207 Australian dollars)

($1 = 0.8465 pounds)

Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Kim Coghill

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