Before the 1980s, federal policy was to use the tariff to protect local industries (especially the automobile industry), but a three-decade long program of tariff reduction led to tariff rates of 5% or below in 2000. Textiles and clothes (25%), shoes (15%), and automobile products (15%) had higher duties, but those will be reduced to 17.5%, 10%, and 10%, respectively, in 2005. The GST of 10% applies for most imports and exports. Tariffs on industrial machinery and capital equipment ordinarily are low where they do not compete with Australian enterprise and machinery and equipment required by new industries may be imported duty-free or at concessional rates under the Project-By-Law Scheme (PBS).
As a contracting party to GATT, Australia consented to a number of tariff reductions after 1947. Under the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA), which went into effect on 1 January 1981, Australia and New Zealand offered the other South Pacific Forum members duty-free or concessional access to their markets. The Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA, abbreviated to CER) opened bilateral trade between the two countries in 1983. Australia is also a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
The only free-trade zone is the Darwin Trade Development Zone (TDZ), located in the Northern Territory. There is a Manufacturing-in-Bond (MIB) site in Newcastle and several others were on the way in 2000.