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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


What’s the big deal?
John Garnaut cuts through the politics of the free trade agreement with the United States to find the winners and losers.
URGENT: Stay GE-Free: Reject the US-Australia FTA
If Howard and Bush’s so-called ’free trade’ deal is confirmed by the Australian parliament and senate (WHICH CAN ONLY HAPPEN IF THE ALP VOTES WITH THE GOVERNMENT), genetically engineered crops and foods will be forced down our throats and onto our farms, and our hopes for GE-free Australia will end!!
FTA ’first step to destroying PBS’
The Medical Journal of Australia, published by the Australian Medical Association, this week carries two articles claiming the free trade agreement (FTA) will undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Tridge fears FTA patent war
One of Australia’s most recognised Linux developers, Dr Andrew Tridgell, has attacked the proposed Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), claiming it could pit local open source developers against Microsoft in a "patent war".
Australian Senate urged to block the FTA
Leading unions, doctors and welfare groups are urging the Senate to block the free trade agreement with the United States.
Why Latham should reject the FTA
This so-called free trade agreement is a humiliating sell-out, says Tim Colebatch.
Australia-US Free Trade Deal a Disaster
President Bush promised the Australian government an economic sweetener in exchange for support of the U.S. led invasion, and under fast track authority Congress must vote up or down on the Australia U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) by early July.
Big FTA stoush brewing on copyright
A full-scale political stoush is brewing over intellectual property provisions in the Australia-US free trade agreement following the passage of enabling legislation last week.
Reports highlight costs of free trade deal
Politicians from Australia’s opposition party could try to derail the Australian-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) after a Senate select committee claimed the deal could push up drugs prices and give copyright owners in Australia even more protection than they enjoy in the US.
Doctors urge US to oppose FTA
A doctors group has written to American lawmakers urging them to oppose the Australia-United States free trade agreement (FTA).