Media release from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

D2 / 14 February 2005

First Meeting of Officials Under the AUSFTA

The first meeting of senior officials under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) following entry into force on 1 January 2005 took place today in Canberra.

The meeting of the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Matters, including food safety and quarantine, provided a useful opportunity for dialogue between agencies from Australia and the United States.

The SPS Committee is one of a number of committees and working groups, including the Ministerial-level Joint Committee, which will meet during the course of the year.

The SPS Committee meeting assisted in the process of increasing mutual understanding of each country's SPS measures and regulatory processes and how best to continue and improve cooperative efforts internationally.

Officials of both governments took the opportunity to reinforce the importance of maintaining science-based decision making within the framework of the World Trade Organization's SPS Agreement and each party's risk analysis and regulatory processes.

The meeting marked the beginning of an enhanced program of dialogue with the United States on a wide range of trade and economic matters. It further highlighted the value of Australia's free trade agreement with the United States.

In addition to providing better access into the United States for Australian exports, the AUSFTA also provides Australia with a unique opportunity for regular high-level discussions with the United States on issues of importance and concern to Australian industry.

The Committee complements existing SPS consultation processes between Australia and the United States and we expect that it will meet on an annual basis. The first meeting of the Standing Technical Working Group on Animal and Plant Health Matters under the AUSFTA was also held today (14 February) in Canberra.

Media enquiries: DFAT Media Liaison on 02 6261 1555