01:13 GMT02 December 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - A free trade agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom is Australia's "top priority," which could be agreed upon in the near future, Australian high commissioner George Brandis told the Sky News broadcaster on Wednesday amid the launched trade talks between the two countries.

    "At a time when there are tensions in the world that are growing more acute - and which have been dramatised and thrown in very stark relief by the COVID crisis - the benefit, the importance to each other of like-minded, free-trading liberal democracies like Britain and Australia has never been greater", Brandis said, adding that the FTA could be agreed upon "fairly soon".

    UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited in February the Asia-Pacific region in order to discuss trade and bilateral ties with Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

    "Leaving the EU marks a step change in Britain’s engagement on the world stage as a free-trading nation with a strong moral anchor. Our ambitious plan to strengthen historic ties while broadening our horizons to embrace the opportunities in the rising economies of the future will be the theme of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s four-country visit to the Asia-Pacific region", the Foreign Office said in its statement.

    The coronavirus pandemic has severely affected all spheres of the economy across the globe, with more than 8 million people infected with the virus worldwide. The global economy is expected to contract by 5.2 percent this year for the deepest recession since World War II due to the coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown measures that followed, according to the World Bank.

    The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January, after three and a half years of protracted negotiations. The country is now working on a number of free trade agreements, including with the Asia-Pacific region comprised of Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly voiced his commitment to creating a "global Britain" that would see the UK building new relations with the international community.

    Free Trade Agreement, trade deal, Australia, United Kingdom
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