Australia/United States Free Trade Agreement
The Australia/US FTA came into force on 1 January 2005. A large community campaign grew around the US FTA negotiations because the US government identified important Australian health, cultural, social and environmental policies as barriers to trade, and sought to change them through the trade negotiations. Community groups advocated that such policies should be decided democratically through parliamentary process, not negotiated away in a trade agreement. Many unions, community groups, environment groups, academics and individual activists were involved in this campaign.
Community campaigning limited the impact of the US FTA on some social policies and also played a major role in changing public opinion. Polls conducted by Hawker Britton showed a steady decline in support for the US FTA, from 65% when negotiations started to 35% in February 2004 when the deal was concluded. This lack of support was confirmed by a Lowy Institute poll in February 2005, which showed that only 34% supported the US FTA.
The impacts of the USFTA have been emerging since its implementation in 2005, and include.:
- An incease in Australia’s trade deficit with the US
- A policy to add a new F-1 category to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, resulting in higher prices for some new medicines;
- A review of blood processing services with the aim of opening the tendering of those services to US companies. The review recommended against this, on the grounds that Australian provision of blood services would be both safer and cheaper. But the AUSFTA obliged the government to recommend that tendering proceed. Fortunately, because of a prior Commonwealth state Agreement on blood services, State governments had the legal power to decide the issue on health grounds, and rejected the recommendation.
- Reduction of the ability of Australian governments to regulate levels of foreign investment in the climate sensitive water and energy industries
The text of the agreement can be viewed here.