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FTA to create opportunities: Zoellick

Sydney Morning Herald

18 November 2004

FTA to create opportunities: Zoellick

The free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and the United States would create real economic opportunities in both countries for businesses, farmers, and workers, US trade representative Robert Zoellick said.

Mr Zoellick met Trade Minister Mark Vaile in Santiago, Chile and ironed out the final sticking points on the deal.

He said the US and Australia had now exchanged diplomatic notes certifying that each country had completed internal requirements to allow the agreement to enter into force on January 1, 2005.

"We have addressed US concerns over Australia’s implementation of the agreement and I am pleased to announce that the FTA will go into force on January 1, the earliest possible opportunity," Mr Zoellick said in a statement.

"This FTA will eliminate more than 99 per cent of tariffs on industrial goods between the two countries.

"By opening markets for goods and services, promoting investment, enhancing protection for intellectual property, and freeing electronic commerce, this agreement will create real economic opportunities in both the United States and Australia for businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers."

Mr Zoellick said the US had raised concerns with Australia that its FTA implementing legislation, passed by the Australian Parliament in August 2004, did not fully implement a number of FTA commitments on intellectual property.

He said Australia had undertaken to take steps, including legislative and regulatory changes, to address these issues.

"US businesses are eager to begin reaping the benefits of this historic agreement," he said.

"I am pleased that we were able to work together to address US concerns and look forward to working together to ensure full and faithful implementation of the Agreement."

Negotiations on the Australia-US FTA began in March 2003 with US President George W Bush and Prime Minister John Howard making it a priority to conclude the deal.

This is the first FTA between the US and a developed country since the US-Canada agreement in 1988.

In 2003, Australia was America’s 14th largest export market for goods while two-way goods and services trade is nearly $US29 billion ($A37.11 billion), a 53 per cent increase since 1994.

Two-way foreign direct investment is about $US61 billion ($A78.06 billion).