“We send you Penguins and you send us, with reduced tariffs, these wonderful Arnotts Tim Tams,” he said. “How long can the British people be deprived of the opportunity to have Tim Tams at a reasonable price?”
In response, Arnott’s, the manufacturer of Tim Tam, tweeted new flavour ideas – bangers and mash, Scotch egg, fish and chips – “we reckon you Brits will love”.
The two-way trade in goods and services between both countries was worth $30.3 billion last financial year – making the UK Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on social media that an FTA with the UK provided a “wonderful opportunity to supercharge our economic relationship”.
“It will mean more jobs, more growth and more opportunities for both our citizens to live and work in each other’s countries post COVID,” he said.
But there has been debate about the benefits of a free trade agreement between the UK and Australia following the announcement of negotiations last week.
Fears were expressed last year that an FTA could lead to a spate of salmonella in the UK because of lower standards of animal welfare in Australia.
Arnott’s does not currently export directly to the UK although products such as Tim Tams and Shapes sometimes appear in specialty stores, said Arnott’s chief executive George Zoghbi.
“A free trade pact would help us sell Tim Tam in the UK at a reasonable price,” he said. “UK import duties currently make this very challenging.”
A packet of Tim Tams costs as much as $15 in Britain compared to just £1 for a packet of eight Penguins.
Arnott’s range also includes Mint Slice, Wagon Wheels and Caramel Crowns and Mr Zoghbi said the free trade agreement could open new export opportunities, providing a boost to jobs and farmers.
“Arnott’s currently spends $500 million each year on Australian raw ingredients, packaging and other local services which support our agricultural communities,” he said.
British beef and cheese, Salmon, gin, black pudding and Worcestershire sauce are other products that may fall in price.
But Reshad Ahsan, senior lecturer in economics at the University of Melbourne, said he doubted a free trade agreement between the UK and Australia would lead to significant price reductions or encourage more people to eat Marmite.
Dr Ahsan said the FTA was likely to make it easier for young Australians to live and work in the UK.
“That’s where most of the gains will be for us,” he said.
Dr Ahsan said the real benefit of an FTA for Australia was in securing a commitment to keep borders open: “Being a small market, we want the free flow of goods to remain as much as possible.”
Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.