The Australian Trade Commission is opening a trade office in Charlotte, N.C., this week as part of the Australian government’s efforts to help Australian and American firms take advantage of the U.S.-Australia free trade agreement.

The agreement, which went into effect in January, removed two-thirds of all U.S. agricultural tariffs on Australian goods and is to eliminate another nine percent within four years. It called for an immediate elimination of U.S. tariffs on Australian industrial products, including auto parts.

For U.S. companies, the agreement eliminates 99 percent of Australia’s manufacturing tariffs immediately, giving Georgia firms an average five percent price advantage over international competitors. It grants U.S. exporters tariff-free access to Australia’s agricultural market.

Amanda Hodges, Australian Consul General and Trade Commissioner in Atlanta, said that the automotive industry in the Southeast is one reason for opening a new trade office in Charlotte.

“Charlotte is important for Australian companies as a center for banking and IT, as well as the automotive industry and building and construction,” she told GlobalAtlanta, noting that there are some 250 automotive companies her office has identified near Charlotte.

The new Charlotte office follows the opening of a Miami trade office in January. Both are part of the Australian government’s plans to spend $25 million over three years and hire 23 new U.S.-based export specialists and business development managers throughout 2005.

Charlotte will be the 13th Australian Trade Commission office in the United States. The commission, also called Austrade, expects to open offices in Austin, Texas, Colorado Springs, Honolulu, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix by the end of August.

Austrade offices support some 25 Australian-owned companies in Georgia that employ 3,000 people, 2,200 of whom are in manufacturing positions.

Contact Ms. Hodges at the Atlanta Austrade office at (404) 760-3410 for more information.