Article 10 of the Free Trade Agreement gives a clear meaning to the concept of `cross-border trade in services` and provides suppliers with an open environment in which they can operate. It requires each country to grant national or most-favoured-nation treatment to service providers of the other and prohibits numerous restrictions on market access and transfers. The rules of origin section describes the rules for determining the origin of traded goods to determine eligibility as well as the method for determining the value of traded goods. The agreement became an important political theme on the eve of the 2004 elections. After a long period of negotiations under the leadership of Howard`s Trade Minister Mark Vaile, the deal was strongly supported by the Howard government as a huge potential benefit to the Australian economy and essential to the continuation of the US-Australia alliance. In 2004, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade commissioned a private consulting firm – the Centre for International Economics (CIE) – to model the economic impact of such an agreement. Negotiations on the free trade agreement began in March 2003 and, after six rounds of negotiations in Canberra, Hawaii and Washington, D.C., the text was finally adopted in February 2004 and signed in May 2004 in Washington by Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile and Robert Zoellick, US Trade Representative. The agreement also improves Australia`s services, trade and investment prospects, improves the regulatory and investment environment between the two countries and fosters increasing business mobility. Chapter 19 addresses concerns that parties may seek trade benefits by relaxing environmental legislation. On July 15, both houses of the U.S.
Congress strongly supported the free trade agreement.