Britain forms free trade group with Australia ahead of leaving EU

Prime Minister Theresa May Appoints Her Cabinet

LONDON-Australia's trade minister on Wednesday said his country is holding preliminary trade talks with the United Kingdom but cautioned that a pact can't be signed until after Britain formally exits the European Union.

The announcement follows comments from Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the weekend's G20 summit, where he unequivocally committed Australia to striking a "very strong" deal with the United Kingdom following the European Union referendum.

Ciobo was speaking during a visit to London.

Since Britain's June 23 vote in favour of Brexit, Australia has said it is keen to seek a trade partnership with Britain.

The apparent rebuke sparked claims that ministers are "confused" and can not agree policy on withdrawing from the European Union following June's referendum vote to leave.

According to Turnbull, May is "very grateful" for the assistance Australia is providing, in "making available our resources to them, our resources to help them address the trade challenges they have".

The UK is to begin preliminary talks with Australia about the outline of a future free trade deal between them. "We will work to the UK's requests".

He continued: "We can certainly have preliminary discussions and that's part of what I'm doing here this week". "The UK sheep sector is already suffering unacceptably high levels of imports of New Zealand lamb, much of which is sourced by retailers at times of the year when UK product is in plentiful supply".

Theresa May has indicated Article 50, the formal process of Brexit, will not be triggered until next year. "My formal advice is that, and".

This Friday discussions between the UK and Australian governments continue through the Australia-UK Ministerial Dialogue (AUKMin) on defence and security.

Australia has been earmarked by the United Kingdom as its first post-Brexit trade partner.

The two ministers said they would meet twice a year to review the working group's progress, with the first meeting in early 2017 in Australia.

The minister said that the key priority in the short term for the Australian government was to sign a FTA deal with Indonesia and in this term was to focus on what Australia can do with Indonesia.

"Both of us want a future FTA to generate new trade and investment opportunities".

In addition to preparing for bilateral FTA negotiations, its agenda will include other trade policy issues of mutual interest, including WTO processes and current and prospective plurilateral negotiations.

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