On 9 January 2023, the second reading of the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords.
The UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand free trade agreements (FTAs) are the first ‘from scratch’ trade agreements that the UK has negotiated since it left the EU. The government has said that the agreements would help the UK in joining the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP).
The agreements themselves cover a range of areas but the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill relates to their chapters on government procurement (chapter 16 in both FTAs).
The UK is a dualist state. This means that international treaties do not automatically become part of its domestic law. In instances where agreements (or parts thereof) need to be implemented in domestic law, Parliament will need to pass legislation. The Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill would introduce regulation making powers to implement the government procurement chapters of the UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand FTAs in UK domestic law. The government intends for the implementation of procurement provisions in future FTAs to be implemented through a power in the Procurement Bill (the Procurement Bill has completed its stages in the Lords and is scheduled to have its second reading in the Commons on 9 January 2023). However, the government has said that changes to UK domestic law required for the Australia and New Zealand agreements are needed before the Procurement Bill is likely to enter into force.
The bill completed its stages in the House of Commons on 12 December 2022 unamended.
The Labour Party has said it will not oppose the bill, although it has expressed concerns about the wider provisions of the agreements, in particular the potential impact on the UK agricultural sector. It has also expressed concern about the parliamentary scrutiny afforded to the agreements. The agreements as a whole have been the subject of reports by the House of Lords International Agreements Committee and the House of Commons International Trade Committee.