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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


Drug companies pressure Govt to review FTA
The debate over the cost of medicines in Australia took a new twist today, with Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile declaring the Government will have a second look at provisions within the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. They’re provisions that were specifically designed to keep the cost of pharmaceuticals down.
NFF backs FTA despite export figures
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) is still backing the Australia-US free trade agreement, despite poor terms of trade in its first year of operation.
FTA change will push drug prices up: ALP
The Federal Opposition is warning the cost of medicines will rise if a Labor amendment designed to protect Australian drug prices in the US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is removed.
Australia pressured over US FTA: Crowe
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe says the Australian government has buckled to United States pressure over free trade.
US deal may hurt stem cell research
The free trade agreement (FTA) with the US could stifle Australian stem cell research, scientists and legal experts say.
US lobbyists making money from FTA
There have already been some big winners out of Australia’s free-trade deal with the United States - American lawyers and lobbyists.
US gains in one-sided trade deal
The much-vaunted free trade agreement with the United States has become one-sided, with no financial benefit to Australia.
Free trade, the new con trick
It is two years since the US and Australia signed a so-called free trade agreement, and it is nearly 60 years since George Orwell introduced the concept of "newspeak", which describes how politicians often subvert language to make it mean the opposite of what it says.
Ambassador denies slavish approach to US
Australia’s outgoing ambassador to the United States denies Australia’s relationship with the US is subservient and a threat to the national interest.
Warning on cost of vitamins under US FTA
The cost of vitamins could rise by 8% under the Australia-United States free trade agreement, vitamin makers have warned.