bilaterals.org logo
bilaterals.org logo

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 concern poses threat to free trade deal
The United States’ continuing concern about Australian laws is threatening to delay the countries’ free-trade agreement.
Australia may bow to pressure from US drug firms on FTA
Prime Minister John Howard may bow to a concerted campaign by American drug companies against the amendments that the government was forced into accepting upon pressure from the Labor Party.
Strange article lurking at back of FTA could bring nasty surprise
HIDDEN at the back of the 1000 page Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, is a strange article, numbered 21.2(c). Usually, in a legal document such as a treaty, dispute proceedings only arise if a party has breached a formal obligation in the text.
Leaders face challenge on trade threat to PBS
Twenty leading medical and legal experts, and seven peak health and community services organisations, will send today an open letter to John Howard and Mark Latham demanding changes to the free trade agreement with the US before the agreement is ratified in late October.
Australian biotech industry sounds warning bells on FTA amendments
Australia’s Biotechnology Industry Organisation representing over 2,000 Members, is deeply concerned at the potential unintended consequences and the uncertainty created by the proposed FTA amendments.
Entertainment Industry Coalition For Free Trade Hails U.S. - Australia Free Trade Agreement
The Entertainment Industry Coalition for Free Trade (EIC), a group of leading entertainment companies, trade associations and entertainment unions and guilds, today applauded the conclusion of the U.S. - Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
USCSI: US-Australia FTA to Open New Opportunities for US Service Sector
The Coalition of Service Industries (CSI) today announced its strong support for the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), noting that the agreement will open up new opportunities for US suppliers in a host of service industries.
Open source joins electioneering
Within 24 hours of a federal election being called, Communications and IT minister Helen Coonan has swapped her contentious campaign to offshore government IT services for a warm and fuzzy embrace of home-grown open source software to woo the penguin vote.
FTA leaves us second among equals
Access to the US market will be valuable, but Aussie consumers will lose, not gain, from the copyright provisions.
Bullying big pharma puts pressure on Australians
US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick’s warning to Australia that an amended free-trade agreement might conflict with the letter and spirit of the original agreement was prompted by bullying from the American pharmaceuticals industry, according to a US trade adviser.