Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 24 November 1999
Page: 12529

Mr SECKER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Would the minister inform the House of Australia's hopes for trade reform that we will be fighting for at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle next week?

Mr VAILE (Trade) —I thank the honourable member for Barker for his question. Obviously, being in a rural electorate, on behalf of his constituents he is very concerned about the current circumstances that confront our exporters of not only agricultural commodities out of Australia but also manufactured goods and particularly services. All these areas of trade, as far as Australia is concerned, need better market access, need cleaner, fairer market access, into the marketplaces across the world into which our industries are exporting. The meeting of the WTO beginning this weekend in Seattle marks the beginning of what should be a historic occasion as far as world trade is concerned to set up a much better trade agenda over the next 10 years. Our ambitions for this round are obviously to try and make this round the market access round because better market access, cleaner market access, is going to provide the greatest benefits to all Australian exporters, whether they be primary producers or exporters of goods or services. Our intention is to make this a market access focused round; a round that should be concluded after three years and, at the end of those three years, have those decisions bound up in a single undertaking.

It is interesting that we have seen in recent times the WTO significantly strengthened with the agreement by the US and China in principle on their bilateral relationship to see China enter the WTO next year. At the meeting beginning next week there will be 134 countries represented in Seattle to negotiate the launch of a new round of trade negotiations. If we can see some significant reform out of those trade negotiations over the coming years, we will see some significant benefits accrue to Australia and across the world. It has been estimated that if we saw a 50 per cent reduction in the level of protection globally then we would see the world economy boosted by $US400 billion—or $A625 billion—per year. We would see a $7.8 billion per year boost to the Australian economy.

We are undertaking this task in the knowledge that it is going to be a difficult challenge; it is going to be a difficult task. There are a lot of very extreme views across the world in regard to the general concept of liberalisation. Australia thus far has played a significant role in these negotiations as we lead up to Seattle. As the chair of the Cairns Group, we have been conducting negotiations with the US, the EU and Asian countries in terms of getting the right balance in the ministerial declaration. Obviously, we will arrive in Seattle and that will progress from there on a minister to minister basis.

It is vital that we recognise that it is very important for Australia that we make progress out of this round, and we will certainly be focused on doing that. We are taking with us quite a diverse range of representatives from exporting industries and interested parties in the official government delegation and the NGO group. We are going to include all those representatives from Australia in a `team Australia' exercise so that we will be projecting with one voice the views that Australia has as far as trade liberalisation is concerned and the importance of that to the Australian economy and the broader global economy.

The Prime Minister highlighted at CHOGM recently that trade liberalisation is also very important to developing countries and the least developed countries in the world. That has been recognised by their support of the trade liberalisation agenda. Those benefits will accrue to those economies, and we will continue to remind some of our colleagues across the world who are probably not so enthusiastic about the agenda that we want to push that it is important for not only the richer countries in the world but also the developing economies in the world that we progress down this path. The progress we make will be to the benefit of Australia's exporting industries, and we certainly look forward to the support of the broader community in Australia and of course the opposition in this parliament in our pursuits on behalf of the Australian people.