Advice

Selling services to Australia

Free Trade Agreement overview

Overview

The UK’s services industry is a powerhouse for the UK economy, accounting for around 80% of total UK economic output. (Source: ONS GDP output approach – low-level aggregates, 2022) Australia is an important and growing export market for UK services companies, in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2022, services accounted for £6.3 billion (58.9%) of all UK exports to Australia, an increase of 11.5% from the same period the previous year. (Source: ONS UK trade, all countries, seasonally adjusted, Q3 2022) The UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) goes further than Australia has ever gone before in giving UK services companies access to the Australian market. This means that UK services, from architecture and law, to financial services and shipping, will be able to better compete in the Australian market and build on the 23.2% market share of services imported by Australia from UK services companies in 2021. (Source: UK services exports to Australia (ONS UK trade in services, Q3 2022) compared with Australia total services imports (UNCTAD, 2021))

Under the FTA, there will be more opportunities for the services sector, with increased access to bid on government contracts, more certainty for temporary business travel, and the facilitation of the mutual recognition of more professional qualifications. UK investors will benefit from fewer investment deals having to be reviewed by Australia's Foreign Investment Board, and digital and cybersecurity businesses will encounter less red tape and benefit from FTA provisions designed to cut costs and encourage cross-border digital trade.

UK export icon

The UK’s services industry is a powerhouse for the UK economy, accounting for around 80% of total UK economic output.

Growing Business Icon

UK services will be able to build on the 23.2% market share of services imported by Australia from UK services companies in 2021.

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In the four quarters to the end of Q3 2022, services accounted for £6.3 billion (58.9%) of all UK exports to Australia.


For the first time in a free trade agreement, innovation has been included as a standalone section. The FTA recognises the importance of innovation to the economy and global trade, and will deepen cooperation on AI and other disruptive digital technologies. This will ensure that the UK both plays a leading role in the development of technologies of the future and takes full advantage of the social and economic benefits they will bring.

New opportunities for services exporters

Are you planning to bid on a contract to supply a service in Australia? Your business will have greater certainty that they will be treated the same as local businesses. Market access provisions prohibit quantitative limitation on service suppliers, including the number of operators, persons employed and the total value of service transactions. Australia has also committed not to require UK services suppliers to establish an office in Australia as a condition for the cross-border supply of a service (apart from in a small number of reserved sectors).

Do you want to transfer employees from the UK to a branch in Australia? For those qualifying as intra-corporate transferees, Australia will now grant temporary entry and stay for up to four years, subject to meeting the relevant immigration requirements.

Are you a global investment company, based in the UK, and looking to increase your Australian presence? You will benefit from a more than quadrupling of the UK investment threshold to AUD $1.2 billion before your investment will be looked at by Australia’s Foreign Investment Board (apart from in a small number of sensitive sectors).

Better business travel and temporary entry for British professionals

This FTA provides greater certainty and access for British professionals looking to deliver services in person in Australia. The FTA applies to business persons under the following categories:

  • Business Visitors;
  • Installers and Servicers;
  • Intra-Corporate Transferees;
  • Independent Executives; and
  • Contractual Service Suppliers

Intra-Corporate Transferees and Independent Executives will now be able to work in Australia for up to four years, double what was previously allowed, and bring their spouses and dependent children with them to Australia for that time.Their spouses and dependents will also be able to work in Australia during their stay.

Contractual Service Suppliers, including self-employed independent professionals working in certain sectors, will no longer be subject to Australia’s changing skilled occupation list,providing greater certainty for UK businesspersons. The FTA lists the sectors that are guaranteed to be accessible for UK Contractual Service Suppliers.

Australian firms will also no longer have to prove that they can’t find an Australian worker before they sponsor a UK professional. This will mean that British Intra-Corporate Transferees and Contractual Service Suppliers will compete for jobs in Australia on a more level footing with Australian equivalents, and there will be more opportunities available to them in Australia after the FTA enters into force.

Business professionals granted temporary entry under these rules will still be required to follow all other applicable licensing or other requirements,including any mandatory codes of conduct, to practise a profession or otherwise engage in business activities.

You can find further guidance on business travel online.

Prospective visa applicants should check with the Australian Department of Home Affairs for full visa details and eligibility criteria. Please note that final visa names are set by the destination country and may vary from the FTA business travel category titles.

Financial services

The FTA ensures UK companies’ ability to deliver high-value financial services to clients in Australia,supports the UK’s leadership in fintech, and promotes innovation in financial services. This will cement the UK’s status as the second biggest provider of financial services in Australia (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, International Trade: Supplementary Information, Financial Year, 2021-22) - with exports worth £824 million in 2021. (Source: ONS UK Trade in Services: Services type by partner country, non-seasonally adjusted, Q3 2022)

The FTA includes new commitments for insurance and portfolio management sectors, as well as locking in existing financial access. It supports the growth of new fintech, makes progress on improvements for new and emerging technology, and builds on the existing UK-Australia Fintech Bridge.

UK companies will have a legally guaranteed right to bid for all contracts for financial and business services procured by Australian government bodies covered by the FTA. For example, UK businesses will now have a right to bid for financial and business service contracts procured by the Australian Financial Security Authority and other federal and state-level finance departments.This will help UK businesses compete on an equal footing with Australian companies.

Professional and regulated services

From legal services and engineering to accountancy and audit, the FTA creates new opportunities to increase the £2.4 billion of insurance, legal and professional services exported to Australia in 2021. (Source: ONS UK trade in services: service type by partner country, non-seasonally adjusted, Q3 2022. Refers to EBOP 6 and 10.2.)

Overall, the FTA could increase the gross value added of these sectors by around £230 million (Source: DBT (2021), UK-Australia FTA: impact assessment) including through facilitating the recognition of professional qualifications, making business travel easier, and increasing access to billions of pounds’worth of government contracts. Professional services are a major UK export and play an essential role in facilitating broader trade and investment.

To support this important sector, the FTA commits the UK and Australia to encourage the irregulators to establish and maintain routes to recognition for each other’s professional qualifications.

The Professional Services Working Group will help to monitor and drive results on the recognition of professional qualifications by facilitating engagement between UK and Australian governments and relevant regulatory bodies.

The UK is the second-largest legal centre in the world for fee revenue and home to five of the world’s 20 largest law firms, with English common law used as the basis for the legal system of 27% of the world’s 320 jurisdictions according to TheCityUK. (Source: TheCityUK, ‘Legal excellence, internationally renowned: UK Legal Services 2022’) The FTA has secured reciprocal access for lawyers wishing to practice law in the territory of the other Party. This guarantees that UK lawyers can advise on home (UK), foreign and international law in Australia using their ‘home’ title and qualification – i.e. without the need for requalification or having to undertake processes for their qualification to be recognised in the host country.

Online resources are available that contain more information on how to provide UK legal services in Australia, and on professional and business services opportunities under the FTA in general.

Investment

For those looking to expand their business and invest in Australia, the deal means fewer UK investments will need to go through Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board. Now, only investments over AUD $1.2 billion, other than those in certain sensitive sectors, will be subject to review, more than quadrupling the UK’s previous threshold. UK enterprises will also gain guarantees that limit nationality and residency requirements for their senior managers and boards of directors. This will provide greater control over business operations and recruitment.

Specific performance requirements – such as export restrictions, local content requirements,headquarter localisation requirements, and mandatory levels of research & development –will be prohibited. This will limit barriers to investment and minimise market distortions.

UK investors will be covered by a range of investment protections. These include 'Expropriation' and 'Minimum Standard of Treatment' provisions which guarantee UK investors protection from the unlawful expropriation of assets and discriminatory, unfair,or arbitrary treatment by Australia.

Please refer to the FTA document for more information on the investment provisions.

Digital trade

British businesses operating in Australia can plan their business growth knowing that they can collect, process, and transfer data between the two countries, without facing unnecessary red tape or costs. This is critical for the £5.3 billion of UK services exports to Australia which were supplied remotely in 2021. (Source: ONS Imports and exports of services by country, by modes of supply, 2021) The FTA also ensures that businesses don’t have to share source code or encryption keys – key commercial secrets for strong cyber security products – to enter the Australian market. The UK’s flourishing cyber security sector is well positioned to benefit from this agreement with the number of UK cyber security businesses having doubled since 2017/18 and 46% of those firms already exporting. (Source: DCMS, Cyber Security Sectoral Analysis 2021 and 2022)

The FTA harnesses the potential of digital technologies to make all forms of trade cheaper, easier and faster. It ensures the free flow of trusted data and world-leading standards for personal data protection. It also ensures the legal recognition of electronic contracts and signatures. It allows our businesses to trade and invest more freely, sets new global standards and creates opportunities for the UK and Australia to collaborate on shared challenges.

Digital traders can take full advantage of the new measures to conduct cross-border trade as efficiently as possible. Traders will not be required to locally store or process data as a requirement for conducting business in the other market,unless for a justified reason. This will remove an expensive stumbling block when it comes to handling data across borders.

Intellectual property

The FTA commits Australia to ambitious Intellectual Property (IP) provisions that support companies through adequate, effective and balanced protection and enforcement, and that encourage innovation and creativity. Provisions include reciprocal copyright arrangements, more efficient trade mark procedures, a streamlined design right protection application process, mechanisms for Geographical Indications protections, protections for patents and trade secrets, and improved IP infringement enforcement.

Procurement

UK companies already have an excellent track record in winning contracts for major Australian infrastructure projects and will benefit from more access to government procurement, more certain business travel and specific wins for the UK rail,airport and maritime sectors. This will help UK businesses reap the benefits from the AUD $15 billion in new infrastructure funding over the next decade announced in Australia’s 2021-22 budget. (Source: Australian government, 2021-22 Budget)

The Australian rail industry is valued at AUD $29.8 billion according to the Australasian Railway Association (Source: Australasian Railway Association (2021), 2021-22 Budget Briefing) and is a key target market.UK services companies already have a strong presence in the Australian rail sector, particularly in design and engineering, and the FTA will help them to further expand. In the Australian airport sector, there is rapid investment and growth, with many airports committing to expansion and refurbishment projects. The new Western Sydney airport project already benefits from sizeable UK involvement, including in the design of its main terminal.

The FTA ensures that covered government procurement opportunities in the UK and Australia are non-discriminatory and transparent.UK businesses can bid for government procurement opportunities on equal grounds with Australian businesses. Procurement opportunities will be posted electronically, and the bidding process conducted via accessible systems which will be made available.

More information is available online.

Additional information for selling services

Providing services in Australia will have other consequences including for tax, intellectual property and local labour regulations. Please refer to the following for more advice:

Australian Taxation Office

Fair Work Ombudsman

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Doing business in Australia

Australia shares a common language and culture with the UK, as well as business and legal practices such as intellectual property protection and the rule of law. This makes it easier for UK companies to do business there. With a population of over 25 million, including more than 1 million Britons, Australia is an ideal place to test and develop new products and services. Around three-fifths of the total population live in Australia’s 4 largest cities, making it easy to prioritise where to launch your product or service.

Legal disclaimer

The information provided on this webpage is for guidance only and should not be relied on as a substitute for your own research or independent advice. No investment and/or business decision should be made solely on the basis of information presented in this document. It is recommended that an independent due diligence investigation is conducted before entering into engagement with any individual, firm, company or other organisation mentioned. DBT accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage caused to any person as result of any error, omission, inaccurate or misleading statement in this document. The accuracy, completeness or up-to-dateness of the content of any website mentioned in this document is not guaranteed in any way, implied or explicit.

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