THE Australia/US free trade agreement (FTA) is set to become a reality on January 1, 2005, after final arrangements for the historic deal were announced last week.
The deal is tipped to generate an annual $6 billion boost to the Australian economy and create more than 30,000 new jobs.
Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said the US FTA would pave the way for improved access to or reduced tariffs for hundreds of primary produce exports, including beef, butter, cheese, milk powder, wine, seafood, lamb, peanuts, oranges and timber.
"The Australian Government has secured a trade deal with the most dynamic market in the world," Mr Truss said.
"It is now up to Australian agri-business to maximise the new opportunities."
Trade Minister Mark Vaile said the FTA was the most important deal in Australian history and would deliver real benefits to all sectors of the Australian economy.
"The US is the largest importer in the world, the largest consumer of goods and services and the largest investor," Mr Vaile said.
"This will create tremendous opportunities for Australian business."
Mr Vaile said more than 97pc of Australian exports to the US, worth $5.84 billion last year, would be duty-free from January 1, 2005.
Meanwhile, the Federal Parliament last week approved another free trade agreement, this time with Thailand, also from January 1.
"The Thailand/Australia FTA is a major market opening agreement which will make a substantial contribution to Australian business, to Australian jobs, and to our engagement with countries in our region," Mr Vaile said.
"Australian exporters will benefit from the significant reduction of Thailand's tariffs across all sectors and will gain improved access to the second largest and one of the fastest growing economies in South-East Asia."
More than $700m of Australian exports to Thailand will obtain immediate tariff cuts, while the savings on Thai customs duties are expected to be around $100m in the first year alone.