U.S. Statement at the Trade Policy Review of Australia

WTO Trade Policy Review of Australia
Statement as Prepared for Delivery
by Ambassador Dennis C. Shea, U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO

Geneva, Switzerland
March 11, 2020

NOTE: WTO meetings are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 situation, but delegations are submitting their statements for the record

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Ambassador Braithwaite, for your contributions as Discussant.

We would like to warmly welcome Mr. George Mina and the rest of the Australian delegation, and compliment the government’s thorough report for its seventh Trade Policy Review.  We appreciate Ambassador Frances Lisson’s ongoing contributions to this institution and for serving as the Discussant for the United States’ most recent TPR in 2018.  We thank the Secretariat, too, for its excellent report on the recent developments in Australia’s economic and trade policy.  We also appreciate Australia’s written responses to our detailed questions and comments, which will enhance our understanding of Australian trade policy.

At the outset I want to convey the support and sympathies of the United States to our Australian friends and colleagues as they continue to deal with the impact of the tragic bushfires that swept the nation.  The United States stands firm with Australia, with unwavering friendship and as a key economic partner.

The United States commends Australia’s sound macroeconomic policies, which have contributed to its strong economic performance over the past decade.  The commercial ties between the United States and Australia are strong and continue to grow.  This year marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which entered into force in 2005.  Our bilateral FTA has contributed to the growth in trade and investment between our two countries.  We are pleased to highlight that our total two-way trade in goods and services has more than doubled since 2004, the year before the FTA entered into force, and our Agreement continues to foster deeper cooperation on other economic issues where we share common goals.  We are further pleased to note that implementation of the Agreement continues to progress smoothly and that both sides remain committed to further enhancing trade ties.

We appreciate Australia’s consistent leadership, resolve, and hard work in pursuing an ambitious outcome in the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations. We also acknowledge the leadership role that Australia plays in WTO institutional reform efforts, including efforts to improve WTO Member compliance with their notification obligations.  Notably, Australia (along with the United States) is a co-sponsor of a draft General Council Decision, Procedures to Enhance Transparency and Strengthen Notification Requests under WTO Agreements.  We also appreciate Australia’s leadership role in the Joint Statement Initiative on Digital Trade and we look forward to continuing our work toward an agreement that establishes high-standard commitments on digital trade.

We also welcomed Australia’s March 2019 announcement that Australia would not proceed with a unilateral digital services tax and instead focus its efforts on engaging in a multilateral process, including through the OECD.

Despite Australia’s exceptionally strong record, there are some areas where we see room for further improvements.  We hope this Trade Policy Review will help draw Australia’s attention to these areas where it can further liberalize its regime and enhance its competitiveness.

As a leading trader of agricultural products, we urge the Australian government to ensure that its sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations and requirements are consistent with the WTO SPS Agreement.

The Secretariat notes in its report that Australia has made several changes to its biosecurity system in order to modernize the regulatory framework and facilitate trade while managing risks from imported products.  We welcome changes that reduce duplication, enable more efficient risk assessments, and make systemic improvements to facilitate trade at the border, especially since recent changes in Australia’s clearance process for certain imported agricultural products may disrupt and hinder imports.  We look forward to continuing work with Australia to clarify the recent changes to Australia’s SPS system, especially as Australia reforms its biosecurity system in a trade-facilitative manner for all trading partners.

We also note that full access to the Australian market for U.S. beef, pork, and poultry remains a priority for the United States.  During Australia’s last TPR, the Secretariat’s report noted concerns by some countries that Australia’s process of aligning its import policy on BSE with the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) standards has delayed the finalization of risk assessments for beef.  While not mentioned in this report, we urge Australia to take into account existing international standards in the development of its regulations and import requirements for beef and other products.

With regard to intellectual property (IP), we applaud Australia’s acceptance of the Protocol amending the TRIPS Agreement during the review period and continued commitment to strengthening IP protection and enforcement. During this TPR, we are keen to learn more about Australia’s IP protections for pharmaceuticals and implementation of recent amendments to its Copyright Act, as well as any further copyright reform measures.

Mr. Chairman, Australia is one of the most dynamic and open economies in the world.  As one of Australia’s closest friends and allies, we share a strong common interest in its continued growth and prosperity.  We look forward to continuing to work closely with Australia in the WTO as well as in bilateral and regional forums.

Thank you.