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Australia-US FTA goes into effect


Australia-US FTA goes into effect

January 2, 2005

A Australia-US free trade agreement took effect on Sunday, eliminating tariffs on the overwhelming majority of goods sold between the two countries, US officials said.

The deal survived months of wrangling in Australia and opposition from some sectors in the US, and a late amendment negotiated to address US concerns about pharmaceutical patents.

The US Trade Representative’s office said more than 99 per cent of US manufactured goods exports to Australia are now duty free. Manufactured goods account for 93 per cent of US exports to Australia.

"As President Bush said when he signed the agreement, ’the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement is a milestone in the history of our alliance," said US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

"This is the most significant immediate cut in industrial tariffs ever achieved in a US free trade agreement, and manufacturers are the big winners. I am also pleased that US workers, businesses, farmers, and consumers will now begin to enjoy the wide-ranging benefits of this landmark agreement."

The deal had been delayed by Washington’s misgivings over last-minute Australian amendments designed to protect access to cheap generic medicines, but an amendment was worked out on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in November.

The agreement was first mooted in November 2002 and has been strongly backed by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who claims it as a major achievement of his government. But critics have derided it as a sell-out to US interests.

Canberra estimates the free trade agreement will boost the Australian economy by billions of dollars a year and create up to 30,000 jobs.

 source: The Age