Australian MP blasts ‘amateurish’ Liz Truss after she insulted the Canberra minister she is trying to strike a trade deal with as the pair meet in London for crunch talks
- Liz Truss holding face-to-face talks with Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan
- Talks in London started this morning but UK frustrated at pace of the progress
- Allies of Ms Truss had said Australia needs to ‘show us the colour of their money’
- They had also taken aim at Mr Tehan, describing the minister as ‘inexperienced’
Liz Truss today faced criticism from Australian politicians after her allies insulted the Canberra minister she is trying to strike a trade deal with.
The International Trade Secretary welcomed Trade Minister Dan Tehan to London this morning for crunch talks.
UK sources had risked souring the meeting before it began after they labelled Mr Tehan ‘inexperienced’ and blamed the Australian government for the ‘glacially slow’ pace of trade talks.
Allies of Ms Truss also said Mr Tehan ‘needs to show that he can play at this level’.
The comments prompted a furious response from Australian government MP Dave Sharma who said it was ‘grossly wrong’ to question Mr Tehan’s ability.
Mr Sharma reportedly told Sky News Australia: ‘This isn’t the way you conduct negotiations by briefing against your counterpart in public.
‘You’re much better off having frank and fulsome and forthright discussions in private. Using a megaphone to try to conduct them or [to] shame your counterpart is amateurish.’
Ms Truss tried to repair the damage yesterday afternoon, issuing a statement promising Mr Tehan a ‘warm welcome’ amid reports that she also texted her counterpart to smooth things over.
This afternoon she tweeted a picture of her and Mr Tehan laughing together as she said they had a ‘great morning of talks’.
‘We want an agreement that will support jobs across the United Kingdom and strengthen ties between two democracies who believe passionately in free and fair trade,’ she said.
Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, is holding face to face talks with Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan in London after her allies labelled him ‘inexperienced’
Ms Truss tweeted a picture this afternoon of her and Mr Tehan laughing together after a ‘great morning of talks’
The meeting came as Australian government MP Dave Sharma said it was ‘grossly wrong’ for allies of Ms Truss to have questioned Mr Tehan’s ability
Mr Tehan is in London for two days of talks and the pressure is on to secure a breakthrough due to the fact he has been allowed to make the trip despite Australia’s strict coronavirus travel policy.
Department for International Trade sources had told The Telegraph that Canberra needs to show ‘some serious movement on their side’ if significant progress is to be made.
Talks are said to have stalled since Mr Tehan took the job back in December last year.
Sources accused Australia of being ‘slow to move on key UK asks’ like on business visas and reducing tariffs on key exports like Scotch whisky.
A source close to Ms Truss had told the newspaper: ‘She plans to sit him down in the Locarno Room [in the Foreign Office] in an uncomfortable chair, so he has to deal with her directly for nine hours.’
The source added: ‘He is inexperienced compared to Liz. He needs to show that he can play at this level.
‘Australia need to show us the colour of their money. They’re great friends of ours and talk a good game about free trade and wanting a deal, but they need to match those words with action.’
One Australian minister told ABC News yesterday that the ‘sledging’ is ‘not a very good tactic’ and warned ‘it’s more likely to be counterproductive’.
Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted an Australian trade official who said the comments were ‘very disrespectful’.
British High Commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell spoke to the media in Australia, telling ABC that ‘this is a trade negotiation, so there will be tactics on both sides’.
Allies of Ms Truss said ahead of the meeting that Mr Tehan ‘needs to show that he can play at this level’
It is estimated that a bilateral trade deal between London and Canberra could increase the value of UK exports to Australia by £900million a year.
Current British trade with Australia is reportedly worth more than £18billion a year.
Ms Truss said in a statement issued yesterday afternoon: ‘I’m looking forward to giving Minister Tehan a warm welcome and building on the good progress we have already made.
‘We want a gold standard agreement that boosts exports, drives investment, supports jobs, and breaks new ground in modern areas like services and digital trade.
‘A deal will strengthen ties with one of our closest friends and a fellow pro-trade democracy, and help pave the way for the UK to join CPTPP, a modern trade group of eleven Pacific nations.’
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