In May 2001, President Bush announced that he would make the approval of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast-track, by Congress his trade policy priority. The TPA allows the president to negotiate trade agreements with other states, subject to congressional conditions and congressional oversight, with congressional approval, that he will not attempt to amend the agreements, but will simply vote up or down. A bill that gave this power to the President came into force in August 2002. In November 2002, almost two years after his four-year term, the President announced to Congress his intention to begin negotiations with Australia for a free trade agreement. The first round of discussions took place in Canberra in March 2003 and an agreement was reached between USTR Zoellick and Trade Minister Vaile on February 8, 2004. (17) The draft agreement was published on 4 March 2004 and was promptly referred to the Standing Committee on Contracts (JSCOT). In May 2004, the Senate established the Senate Committee on the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the United States of America. The agreement was signed in Washington on 18 May 2004 and the final text of the agreement was published. JSCOT recommended binding contractual measures on 23 June 2004, and these AUSFTA implementation bills were passed by the House of Representatives the following day. In July 2004, President Bush sent laws to Congress that were passed from afar in both chambers. President Bush signed the agreement on August 3, 2004 in Washington.
(18) The effects of trade diversion, the diversion of public resources from other trade initiatives, and the discontent of countries that are globally larger trading partners threaten Australia with a special trade agreement with the United States. Specific note: It is unlikely to be truly free. (22) On August 2, 2004, the Senate Select Committee issued a summary of its findings. (36) ALP members made 43 qualifying recommendations on the agreement in its current form (see final note 55), but recommended that the Senate support the agreement (meaning that the majority of committee members, with coalition support, supported the agreement). Among the many concerns expressed by ALP members were a number of issues related to intellectual property, PBS and generics, production protection and local media content. However, there are many more opportunities for such changes, particularly in the area of intellectual property. Failure to take these funds into account may indicate that the implementation of the AUSFTA could be assured by January 1, 2005. However, given the complexity of the legislation and the nature of the legislative changes it seeks (and of course the long-term nature of the agreement itself), the type of legislation could be referred to a Senate legislative committee for consideration. These process issues could be taken into account in future bilateral trade negotiations, which could be in keeping with the approach of the U.S. Congress Trade Promotion Authority and allow for much greater legislative involvement at all stages of negotiations and implementation.