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  March 27th, 2015 | Written by

U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement Turns 10

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A group of U.S. business executives, Australian diplomats and U.S. legislators met recently on Capitol Hill to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Since its entry into force on January 1, 2005, the FTA “has eliminated tariffs and other trade barriers to clear a path for mutually beneficial trade and investment between Australia and the U.S.,” says John Goyer, senior director-Southeast Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

“Even before the FTA, the U.S. and Australian markets were relatively open to one another’s goods and services,” he says. “However, the agreement’s high standards and broad reach are notable—duties were eliminated for well over 99 percent of all tariff lines—and it ushered in a period of welcome growth in two-way trade.”

U.S. exports to Australia have climbed by 117 percent since the agreement went into force, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC). Several industry sectors have seen significant growth, including transportation equipment, up 136 percent to $6.2 billion in 2014, representing nearly a quarter of U.S. merchandise exports to Australia.

In addition, U.S. machinery exports to Australia rose 51 percent to $4.4 billion during the past decade; chemicals are up 44 percent to $3 billion; and information and communications technology-related goods climbed 50 percent to $3 billion. U.S.-to-Australia exports of services such as financial, legal, scientific and technical, for which data are only available through 2013, nearly tripled to reach $19 billion.

U.S. small businesses have been among the top beneficiaries of the FTA, as more than 31,000 U.S. small and midsize companies (SMEs) exported their goods to Australia in 2012 (the latest data available) with more SMEs exporting to Australia than to any other country, except Canada and Mexico.

Since the FTA entered into force, the stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in Australia has doubled, rising from $75.7 billion in 2005 (oldest aggregate data available) to $159 billion in 2013, according to the USDOC. This took place “as the FTA simplified Australia’s process under which the government screens U.S. investments,” says Goyer. “Not only did U.S. investment in Australia increase as a result, the benefits of Australia’s reform have been extended to investors from other countries as well in the intervening years.”

While a fair share of U.S. direct investment is focused on Australia’s natural resource base, U.S. companies also have focused on high-tech and services industries. In the 2004-2013 period, U.S. companies’ direct investments in Australia related to finance and insurance more than tripled to $16.7 billion; professional, scientific and technical services quadrupled to $8.3 billion; machinery manufacturing nearly tripled to $1.6 billion; and computers and electronic products nearly tripled to $1.1 billion.

On the import side, the U.S. has proven itself a significant market for Australia’s value-added exports, such as food products, which rose 97 percent to reach $3.2 billion in 2014 and today account for nearly one-third of Australian goods exports to the United States.

Imports of Australia-made manufactured goods climbed by almost 50 percent with sectors such as primary metals manufacturing and transportation equipment representing roughly another one-third of Australian merchandise exports to the U.S. Australian investments in the U.S. climbed by $4.6 billion in the 2004-2013 period, according to the latest available USDOC figures.