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FTA impact unclear

Briefs

Cite as: (2004) 78(4) LIJ, p.17

The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will have a limited direct impact on the local legal profession. However, there will be an indirect impact with the increase in trade that will flow as a result.

The FTA was signed on 8 February 2004 and the 1200-page final version was released on 4 March 2004.

More specifically, international trade lawyers say the agreement will impact on mergers and acquisitions work and competition law and policy.

Allens Arthur Robinson international trade lawyer Bruce Johnston said it would be easier to get mergers and acquisitions work through as there was now one less step in the bureaucratic procedure for US companies to obtain approval.

Hunt & Hunt international trade lawyer Andrew Hudson said work before the Foreign Investment Review Board would be reduced, but not completely removed.

As a result, potential US investors “won’t be arriving here on fleets with chequebooks, but I certainly think people will need to look very carefully at how they do their business,” he said.

In the area of competition, Australia and the US will cooperate on competition law and policy.

Consumer protection agencies, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the US Federal Trade Commission, will work together in combating illegal activity.

As a result, consumers and investors who are defrauded or deceived will have greater redress.

Some of the FTA’s initiatives include:

  • commitments ensuring non-discrimination against Australian service suppliers;
  • a framework for cooperation in financial services; and
  • a new framework that should promote the mutual recognition of qualifications in professional services.

Representatives of the Law Institute’s International Law Briefing Committee were actively working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney-General’s International Legal Services Advisory Council to provide direct input into the negotiating process to ensure that Victorian solicitors had a say in the development of the FTA.

Fact sheets about the FTA can be found at http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/us.html.

A summary of the FTA can be found on the Institute’s International Law Briefing Committee website at http://www.liv.asn.au/about/committees/committees-Internat.html.

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