The Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement

Subject to certain exceptions and the non-participation of certain U.S. states, the agreement required that each party be no less favourable to the other treatment than the most favourable treatment of domestic goods, services and suppliers. It was not until early 2001, after the election of George W. Bush in the United States and with John Howard in power in Australia, that he became an Australia-USA. The ATF has finally taken shape. In April 2001, President Bush expressed interest in a free trade agreement with Australia, provided that “everything is on the table.” In 2004, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade commissioned a private consulting firm – the Centre for International Economics (CIE) – to model the economic impact of such an agreement. Negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement began in March 2003 and, after six rounds of negotiations in Canberra, Hawaii and Washington, D.C, the text was finally adopted in February 2004 and signed in May 2004 in Washington by Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. Latham reacted unexpectedly by subordinating laboratory support to the free trade agreement to an amendment that would protect PBS.

[9] This effectively turned the situation around to Howard: if the government rejected the amendment as unnecessary, it opened up to assertions that it does not protect Australian interests; while he supported the amendment, he tacitly acknowledged that the initial terms of the agreement were insufficient. The bill was eventually amended and passed. The section also provides for the establishment of an agriculture committee that “provides Australia and the United States with a formal opportunity to discuss a wide range of agricultural issues, including trade promotion measures; Barriers to trade and consult with export competition. Both sides reaffirm their obligations as members of the International Labour Organization and strive to ensure that their national laws provide for labour standards consistent with internationally recognized labour principles. The agreement makes it clear that it is inappropriate to weaken or reduce occupational health and safety at the national level in order to promote trade or investment between the parties. In Australia, the Agreement Implementation Act, the 2004 Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, was reluctantly passed by the Senate on August 13, 2004 with amendments.