WASHINGTON - The Office of the United States Trade Representative
yesterday transmitted to the President and the Congress reports from 32
trade advisory committees, comprising more than 750 practitioners representing diverse
interests and views, regarding the recently completed free trade agreement (FTA) with
Australia. The Trade Act of 2002 requires these committees to prepare reports on
proposed trade agreements for the Administration and Congress. Support for the agreement was
widespread among nearly all the committees. One committee, comprising labor union
representatives, urged Congress to reject the agreement.
"The trade advisory committee reports on the U.S.-Australia FTA
demonstrate that this agreement will greatly expand an important market for America's
goods and services, boosting growth and better paying jobs," said U.S. Trade
Representative Robert B. Zoellick. "The reports show how the agreement will cut hidden
import taxes and ensure a level playing field for American workers, especially
"The trade advisory system is a valuable part of our effort to
consult with and receive guidance from the American public. It complements our close
consultations with Congress. We rely on our advisors and draw on their expertise and
judgment in developing negotiating positions that will be balanced and in the
overall interests of the nation," added Zoellick.
Support for the agreement was widespread. The Advisory Committee
for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), which is appointed by the President and
is the most senior committee, found that the U.S.-Australia FTA "is strongly in the
economic interest of the United States." Describing the agreement as "outstanding" and
urging that it "be adopted quickly," ACTPN described the agreement's rapid elimination of
Australian tariffs on U.S. manufactured exports as "an unprecedented negotiating
Broad support was also expressed by the industry advisory
committees, covering manufactured goods, services, intellectual property, electronic
commerce, standards, and customs matters. These committees, representing the bulk of the
U.S. economy and the vast majority of U.S. exports, applauded the rapid reduction of
tariffs on manufactured goods, strong protections for intellectual property and digital
products, transparency of technical standards, and significant advancements in market access
for a wide variety of U.S. financial, professional, entertainment, audiovisual,
telecommunications and other services.
Most agricultural advisory committees supported the agreement and
noted that it would provide immediate duty-free access for U.S. farm products in
Australia. However, committee reports reflected a difference of opinion within the
agricultural community on whether to include sugar in bilateral free trade agreements.
Agricultural committees also emphasized the importance of continuing to press in the WTO for
disciplines on Australia's agricultural export monopolies, and stressed the
importance of ongoing U.S. efforts to address Australian sanitary and phytosanitary measures
affecting U.S. farm goods.
A majority of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee
(TEPAC), noting Australia's strong record with regard to environmental regulation,
said the FTA provides adequate environmental safeguards. The committee emphasized that
the environmental provisions of trade agreements must be tailored to the individual
circumstances of each trading partner, noting that the scope and quality of
environmental regulation varies widely among countries. A number of separate and additional views
from TEPAC members addressed such issues as investment, intellectual property
protection, environmental procedures in the FTA, and agricultural issues.
The committee of state and local government representatives
(IGPAC) expressed support for the U.S.-Australia FTA, finding that "the agreement advances
trade development in a manner generally beneficial to our national, regional and local
economies." The committee also stressed the importance of ensuring that trade
agreements continue to respect the authority of state and local governments to regulate
in areas under their jurisdiction.
The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) was the only group to
specifically urge Congress to reject the agreement. It argued that Australia's labor laws are
inadequate in a number of areas, and alleged that the Australian government unduly
restricts the fundamental rights of workers. Similar views were expressed in a dissenting
opinion from the ACTPN report, received from a labor union representative on that
The full text of the advisory committee reports are available on
the USTR website, In addition, the Department of Agriculture has released 10 fact sheets summarizing the impact of the trade agreement on commodity groups.
The trade advisory committee system was established in the Trade
Act of 1974. The purpose of the system is to ensure that the Administration
receives advice and assistance from a broad range of stakeholders in setting U.S. trade policy
and developing balanced U.S. positions in trade negotiations. The advisory program is run
jointly by five federal agencies: USTR, the Department of Commerce, the Department of
Agriculture, the Department of Labor, and the Environmental Protection Agency. USTR
is the lead agency.
The advisory groups are made up of more than 750 cleared advisors
from business, agriculture, labor, environmental groups, consumer groups, state
and local governments, as well as academic experts and retired U.S. government
There are 32 advisory committees which meet with U.S. trade
officials to provide advice on proposed and on-going trade initiatives. In FY03, more than 150
advisory committee meetings were held. In addition, USTR and other agencies keep
advisors informed by email and the Internet of important developments in trade negotiations.
More than 125 such communications were sent to advisors in FY03.
During the course of negotiations, advisors review confidential
texts and are asked to provide advice and input. The text of the U.S.-Australia FTA was
made available to the general public on March 3, 2004, less than a month after
conclusion of negotiations. This follows last year's suggestion from advisors that texts be made
publicly available as soon as possible upon conclusion of negotiations.
Other recent improvements in the advisory system include daily
webcast briefings at trade ministerial meetings, more frequent briefings during the
concluding phases of trade negotiations, a secure website for review of documents, and a
complete re-structuring of the industry sectoral and functional advisory committees to
reflect the changing makeup of the U.S. economy.