US Congress adopts an FTA with Australia

By a large mar­gin, both hous­es of the US Con­gress “have now decided(link to sto­ry in the NY Times)”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/16/business/worldbusiness/16australia.html to send to the Pres­i­dent for rat­i­fi­ca­tion, the text of the Free Trade Agree­ment with Aus­tralia. Aus­tralia does not need a Par­lia­men­tary vote to adopt the agree­ment, only to imple­ment cer­tain pro­vi­sions. There are “signs(link to The Aus­tralian newspaper)”:http://www.theaustralian.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10151015%255E601,00.html that the Fed­er­al Labor lead­er­ship has decid­ed it will not pre­vent the pas­sage of such leg­is­la­tion. The eco­nom­ic sig­nif­i­cance of this agree­ment lies in the poten­i­tal impact on our eco­nom­ic prospects of some­what clos­er inte­gra­tion with the world’s most pro­duc­tive econ­o­my whose share of trade is 15 times our share of world trade. But its his­tor­i­cal significance—for Aus­tralia at least—is even more res­o­nant: a ‘free trade agree­ment’ has nev­er been a cen­tral plank of our alliances in the past. Even in the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry when Aus­tralians described them­selves as ‘British’, we had no such treaty with the UK. The ‘impe­r­i­al pref­er­ence’ arrange­ments imple­ment­ed by the “Ottawa Agreement(link to the text of the treaty)”:http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/disp.pl/au/other/dfat/treaties/1932/16.html imposed duties and quo­tas on Australia’s most impor­tant exports to the UK. The Agree­ment did not even bind the UK duties on prod­ucts such as eggs and dairy against increase for more than 3 years.

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