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.
Peter Gallagher is student of piano and photography. He was formerly a senior trade official of the Australian government. For some years after leaving government, he consulted to international organizations, governments and business groups on trade and public policy.
He teaches graduate classes at the University of Adelaide on trade research methods and the role of firms in trade and growth and tweets trade (and other) stuff from @pwgallagher