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New study supports US Free Trade Agreement.



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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Media release

Australian Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile

Wednesday, 29 August 2001 / MVT113/2001

New Study Supports US Free Trade Agreement

Trade Minister Mark Vaile has welcomed the findings of an APEC Study Centre report today which finds Australia could reap wide-ranging benefits from a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

Mr Vaile said the report An Australia-USA Free Trade Agreement: Issues and Implications by Monash University's APEC Study Centre confirmed that it made sense to pursue discussions with the US Administration on a possible FTA.

"Australian business would gain from improved access to the world’s largest economy, and there would also be a number of important flow-on effects, particularly in attracting US investment to Australia and expanding linkages with the dynamic US new economy and leading edge US business practices,” Mr Vaile said.

“Importantly, the report confirms the importance of the launch of a new WTO round as the Government’s number one trade priority.  Far from detracting from this objective the report finds that a bilateral FTA with the US could complement it by setting a high standard for multilateral negotiations.”

Mr Vaile said the study points out that an FTA would be a valuable piece of insurance given the United States’ active pursuit of FTAs elsewhere, most notably the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.  Mr Vaile said this conclusion had particular relevance in examining the role of agriculture in an FTA.

"Agriculture would be an important priority area for Australia and the report shows that the US has been able to make significant commitments on agriculture in other FTA negotiations, such as in the agreement with Mexico,” Mr Vaile said. 

“The Government has never underestimated that agriculture would be a difficult area, but it is vital that we do all we can to improve access and investment opportunities for Australia’s agricultural sector.  Giving up before we even start isn't going to help.” 

The APEC Study Centre report was commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  It follows an economic modelling study by the Centre for International Economics released in June which showed that an Australia-US FTA was likely to boost Australia's GDP by almost $US 2 billion by 2010.

Both reports are available on the DFAT website: www.dfat.gov.au or by contacting Belinda Dradrach on 02 6261 3197.

Media inquiries: James Baker (Ministerial) 02 6277 7420, Nicole Guihot (Departmental) 02 6261 1555