Free trade agreements (FTA)

Australia’s trade policy seeks to maximise trade benefits for all Australians by securing market gains through multilateral, regional, and bilateral approaches. FTAs with individual countries or regional groupings are an important part of this strategy.

Australia has concluded FTAs with New Zealand (ANZCERTA – effective 1 January 1983), Singapore (SAFTA – effective 28 July 2003), the United States(AUSFTA – effective 1 January 2005), Thailand (TAFTA – effective 1 January  2005), Chile (Australia–Chile FTA – effective 6 March 2009), the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA – effective 1 January 2010) and Malaysia (MAFTA–effective 1 January 2013). Bilateral FTA negotiations are underway with China, Japan, Indonesia and India. FTA negotiations with the Republic of Korea concluded on 5 December 2013. The full text of the Korea-Australia FTA is publicly available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

In November 2008 the Government announced that it would participate in negotiations for a Trans–Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The TPP will build on the current Trans–Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement between Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore (which entered into force in 2006) to also include the United States of America, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada, Japan and Australia. TPP parties intend to develop a high quality comprehensive 21st century free trade agreement that increases economic integration in the Asia Pacific region.

The Government announced on 18 August 2009 that Australia would commence negotiations on a new regional trade and economic integration agreement with the Pacific Forum. Known as the PACER Plus negotiations, these involve Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.  Australia's primary objective with PACER Plus is a more sustainable and prosperous Pacific.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations were launched on 20 November 2012. RCEP is an ASEAN centred agreement which will initially include the ten ASEAN countries and the six countries with which ASEAN has separate free trade agreements (FTAs): Australia-New Zealand, India, Japan, China and Korea. RCEP will support improved Australian trade with a group of countries which accounts for almost half the world’s population and 60 per cent of Australian exports of agricultural, fisheries and forestry products.

Negotiations on an FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council remain on hold.

Australia’s FTAs are ‘living agreements’ that continue to develop and evolve long after signing. For more information on completed Free Trade Agreements, including contact details for further information and advice, visit the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade FTA page.

What are FTAs?

FTAs are international agreements between two or more countries to eliminate tariffs on substantially all trade between them. Modern FTAs generally go beyond eliminating tariffs to include commitments on services, customs cooperation, intellectual property, foreign investment, and other issues that will assist trade.

Eliminating restrictions between FTA partners leads to greater integration of economies and mutual benefits, including more export opportunities and product choices in the importing country.

FTAs can speed up trade liberalisation by delivering gains faster than through multilateral or regional processes. FTAs that are comprehensive in scope and coverage can complement and provide momentum to Australia’s wider multilateral trade objectives.

Why have FTAs?

The Australian Government supports the negotiation of comprehensive FTAs that are consistent with the World Trade Organization rules and guidelines and which complement and reinforce the multilateral trading system.

FTAs promote stronger trade and commercial ties between participating countries, and open up opportunities for Australian exporters and investors to expand their business into key markets. They are particularly beneficial when they seek to remove barriers in highly protected markets or gain a foothold in potential or expanding markets.

By facilitating access to these markets, FTAs provide significant commercial benefits to Australia’s exporters and in turn, wider economic benefits to all Australians.

The export opportunities and associated benefits that FTAs provide are therefore very important for Australia. Australian consumers also benefit from FTAs by having a wider range of products to choose from, and from lower prices.

FTAs can help improve the competitiveness of Australian industry through access to lower priced inputs and by encouraging producers to be more efficient to remain competitive against imports.

Australia will not negotiate on specific SPS measures or on trade-offs between market access and the application or lowering of SPS measures and standards. The objective of SPS provisions, where included in FTAs is to build cooperation and consultative arrangements on animal, plant and food health and safety matters.

Department of Agriculture's role in FTAs

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) leads and coordinates FTA negotiations on behalf of the Australian Government.

The Department of Agriculture (the department) works with DFAT to ensure the interests of agricultural industries are taken into account in the development of Australian negotiating positions.

The department is involved in all FTA negotiations and processes, and in developing strategies to maximise FTA gains.

The department and DFAT work together to consult industry on identifying market access priorities and defensive interests, and to keep industry informed of the government’s approach to the negotiations.

The department is responsible for animal and plant health, and quarantine measures, and has a leading role in developing the SPS provisions of FTAs.