Details are scarce on Australia-UK critical technology deals

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

State and federal governments have declined to disclose details of recently signed international agreements purported to boost emerging industries and cross border trade with the United Kingdom.

Last week, both Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and South Australia Premier Steven Marshall spruiked new agreements signed with UK foreign secretary Elizabeth Truss during her visit to Australia.

The offices of the federal minister and the state premier declined to share copies of the agreements or any details beyond what was included in their press releases.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and UK foreign secretary Elizabeth Truss sign an MoU in Adelaide last week. Image: Twitter

South Australia’s deal – a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the UK’s foreign secretary Elizabeth Truss – will see more local events with UK officials, academics and business associations, as well as awareness building of cross border business opportunities, according to the Premier.

Mr Marshall signed the MoU on Saturday, issuing a statement saying the deal was “huge” for South Australia and would help take advantage of the Free Trade Agreement signed with the UK last year.

“Importantly, it will help our companies here in SA get into the UK market quicker and easier – which is vital for our wine industry, as well as our growing job creating industries such as defence, cyber and space,” Mr Marshall said.

Other key “industries” under the MoU include circular economy, science technology and innovation, creative industries, and trade and investment, according to the statement.

A few days earlier, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne signed a ‘Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership‘ with the United Kingdom she said would “shape a positive technology environment” and maintain an “open, free, peaceful and secure” internet.

The fist initiatives, according to the statement issued Thursday, include working together to raise the costs for hostile state activity in cyberspace, building the cyber resilience of Indo-Pacific countries, developing an “action plan” on global standards, and advancing the women in cyber agenda.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the minister’s office did not respond to requests to share a copy of the agreement or even confirm if a document exists.

The agreement was signed by Ms Payne and Ms Truss, with the UK official also signing a MoU on infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific. A copy of the investment MoU is also not publicly available.

Australia signed a Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership with India in 2020, which includes a research and development fund with a lucrative four-year technology grant program for university partnerships.

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