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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


US free trade deal is no two-way street
We all know Australia is one of the closest allies and best friends of the US, but I bet you didn’t know we are also one of the best customers for all things that come from the land of the free and home of the twin deficits.
Academics branded ’anti-US over FTA research’
The head of the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra says there has been an attempt to silence academics who are making critical comments about issues of public importance.
FTA threatens blood supply: study
The safety of the Australian blood supply could be jeopardised under the free trade agreement with the United States, researchers have warned.
Free trade fears in Snowy backflip
The last-minute scrapping of the $3 billion Snowy Hydro float, attributed by the Government to the public outcry at the prospect of losing control of an "icon", may have been partly prompted by fears it would contravene Australia’s free trade agreement negotiated with the US last year.
Bad blood over FTA
Australia’s monopoly blood processor, CSL, has backed Red Cross calls for a ban on plasma imports and warned against opening up the nation’s supply network to overseas companies.
US drug company appeals PBS decision
It’s just over a year since the Australia US Free Trade Agreement came into force, opening the door for US drug companies to force a review of decisions about which drugs are subsidised by the Australian Government. Now that power is being used by the US drug company Eli Lilly.
Keep the FTA away from our plasma
It has been several years since my last donation, but yesterday I did my part towards saving someone’s life.
US trade deal failing some Aussie firms
Australia’s free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States is only benefiting businesses with well-established links, Australia’s peak industry group says.
US biotech deal blazes Aussie trail
At just $4million, it’s hardly the biggest biotech deal ever struck by an Australian company, but it’s an important first.
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