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Bush Signs Free Trade Agreement with Australia - 2004-08-03

President Bush has signed a new trade deal with Australia that eliminates almost all duties on commerce between the countries.

President Bush says the free trade agreement will mean lower prices and more jobs for both America and Australia.

"I support free and fair trade because it has the power to create new wealth for whole nations and new opportunities for millions of people," he said.

The agreement eliminates duties on 99 percent of U.S. manufactured exports to Australia. That is the largest immediate reduction of any U.S. free trade agreement.

Total annual two-way trade in goods and services between the countries is currently $28 billion, making Australia America's 10th largest export market. American manufacturers expect the new deal will increase exports by nearly two billion dollars a year.

It also gives U.S. firms greater access to Australian markets in telecommunications, government procurement, express delivery, computers, tourism, energy, construction, financial services, and entertainment.

At a signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Bush said he is working to extend the benefits of free trade around the world by renewing the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and by signing free trade agreements with Morocco, Chile and Singapore.

"One of the great economic achievements since the end of the Cold War has been the success of free and fair trade in raising-up the world's poor, bringing hope to the world's hopeless, promoting freedom among the world's oppressed and creating jobs at home and abroad," he said. "The same advantages that this agreement will bring to the United States and Australia can and should be available to the developing world. Our two nations are committed to the reduction of trade barriers and other restrictions that are keeping too much of the world from the kind of prosperity and opportunity that the developed world takes for granted."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is one of the biggest supporters of U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Bush says he is grateful for the vision and friendship of Mr. Howard, whom he called a "strong partner in peace."

The trade deal has not passed the Australian Senate, where opposition legislators want the agreement changed to protect subsidized medicine and local content rules for Australian television.