Australia exports less to US despite FTA

Friday, January 6, 2006 Figures issued by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show that in the twelve months to October, 2005 exports from Australia to the United States fell by 4.7 per cent while imports from the US rose 5.7 per cent. Australia and the US entered into a free trade agreement which began in January, 2005.

During the drafting of the agreement it drew heavy criticism for only opening parts of the US market to Australia.

The Australian Government insists that the results are due to a stronger Australian Dollar and increased competition from Asia. Acting prime minister, Mark Vaile said while exports to the US slowed, Australia was exporting to other markets "At the same time, there have been buoyant and robust economies operating in north Asia that have been very attractive for our exporters to go into those markets, so you can't just look at 12 months in isolation."

Critics of the Free Trade Agreement are calling on the government to use its escape clause. "Our argument is that we should be looking seriously at the provision in the agreement (under which) the Government can give six months notice to end the agreement" said Public Interest Advocacy Centre policy officer Patricia Ranald.

Mark Vaile has also indicated that he wishes to lobby the US to include sugar in the free trade agreement. This has received strong opposition from sugar farmers in the US.

The news comes just days after Mark Vaile announced that the government were considering dropping an amendment to the FTA to protect generic medicines.