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US-Australia

The US-Australia Free Trade Agreement (or AUSFTA) was signed on 18 May 2004 and came into effect on 1 January 2005. It’s a comprehensive agreement, with chapters on: Market access for goods, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, cross-border services, financial services, electronic commerce, investment, intellectual property rights, government procurement, competition policy, labour, environment and dispute settlement.

Throughout the negotiations, the contents of the agreement were problematic for different sectors on both sides of the Pacific. US farmers managed to keep sugar out of the deal, but would face new competition from Australian dairy imports. Social opposition to the agreement ran high in Australia, the major concern being access to affordable medicine. The FTA commits Australia to provide stronger patent monopolies to US drug companies, directly compromising Australia’s Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The FTA became a key electoral issue in Australia in late 2004. However, Prime Minister Howard was re-elected and came to a final accord with the Bush administration on the drugs chapter by the end of the year, thereby assuring the agreement’s entry into force at the start of 2005.

One year into the FTA, debate broke out in Australia over the impacts. In the first year, US exports to Australia had shot up while Australia’s exports to the US had shot down. Further, US drug companies were not happy with the limited safeguards left to protect Australia’s PBS and started moving to have them scrapped.

In 2007, Australia registered a $13.6 billion trade deficit with the US, its largest ever with any trading partner. The National Institute of Economic and Industry Research estimates that the US-Australia FTA could cost the Australian economy up to $50 billion and 200,000 jobs.

last update: May 2012


Nationals scrutiny ’threatens’ free trade agreements
Labor has seized on Coalition disunity over foreign investment to warn that a Nationals plan for new restrictions on investment in farmland would breach the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.
US to fight cyber wars with free trade
Selling Aussie technology to the US military just got easier.
Free trade pact a dud for Australia
The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has just completed its seventh year. The US Bureau of Census calculated that most marriages that end last for eight years - the itch is supposed to begin in the seventh - so the fundamental issue is whether the relationship has been good for both parties.
Mind the gap: benefits from free trade haven’t quite gone the distance
Five years on, it is clear the free trade agreement between Australia and the United States was a dud. Despite the fanfare with which the Howard government introduced it, no tangible benefits have resulted for Australia.
Free trade does little for Australia
Five years into a free trade deal between Australia and the US and horticulture industry insiders say not much has changed
Australia to check US-Australia FTA for American protectionism
Australia will examine its free trade deal with the United States to see if Washington is flouting its obligations under the pact if the United States adopts a "Buy American" clause for new stimulus projects.
Aussie plea on US trade restrictions
Australian officials are intensively lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill to reconsider new "Buy American" provisions that were attached to the $US819 billion ($1.25 trillion) stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, amid fears that they will usher in a new era of protectionism and harm Australia’s steel exports to the US.
Victoria accused of breaching US free trade deak
The Victorian Government has been accused of breaking Australia’s free trade agreement with the US through its "protectionist" new industry policy, which gives local suppliers an advantage over foreign competitors.
FTA puts Australian television content out of focus
During the FTA negotiations, the US pushed hard for Australia’s local content laws to be removed. When Australia retained them, it was heralded as a victory for Australian culture. The reality is somewhat different. By freezing requirements at current levels, the agreement removes the Australian Government’s ability to determine how best to regulate local content.
NPPC urges Australia not to restrict pork imports
Citing the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which became effective Jan. 1, 2005, the US National Pork Producers Council said, in advance of an Australian government report that may recommend protecting Australia’s pork industry, that US pork should be excluded from any such action.