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Monday, 12 September 2005
Page: 29


Mrs MAY (2:19 PM) —My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Would the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade inform the House of the importance of using trade liberalisation to address world poverty? How is the government working to improve the lives of millions of people around the world?


Mr VAILE (Acting Prime Minister) —I thank the member for McPherson for her question. I recognise her very keen interest in these matters, particularly the linkage, as far as poverty alleviation is concerned, between official overseas development aid and trade policy. Australia is delivering a message to the rest of the world, and that is that aid and trade liberalisation can lift millions of people out of poverty if targeted and engaged in properly. The Prime Minister is in New York at the UN world leaders summit. He will outline Australia’s regional successes in terms of targeted aid. At the same time, he will encourage major players such as the European Union and the United States of America to reduce trade barriers, to allow the developing world access to their wealthier markets.

We are approaching a crucial time as far as the Doha Round is concerned with a critical ministerial meeting to take place in December of this year in Hong Kong. We need to see more leadership from leading economies in the world to break the impasse, particularly over agriculture, because it is agricultural trade that initially allows the developing world access into those wealthier markets across the world. Of course, it is also very important for the Australian economy that we see an improvement in global agricultural trade. I welcome the comments from Prime Minister Tony Blair last week when he said, ‘All countries stand to benefit from increased trade and the importance of poor country access to rich country markets.’ We would say, ‘More strength to his arm.’ Prime Minister Blair needs to also convince his colleagues in the European Union about those objectives, as we continue to do. I welcome comments made by the EU Commissioner for External Trade, Peter Mandelson, that trade barriers are ineffective and only distract domestic industries from becoming competitive. This government is engaging both the EU and the US at this time to secure an agreement in Hong Kong.

We should never underestimate the importance and the significance of a developed country like Australia strongly advocating trade-liberalising policies across the world for the benefit of the developing world and, at the same time, playing our role and discharging responsibilities as far as aid is concerned. The World Bank estimates that freeing up world trade and abolishing agricultural subsidies would boost global welfare by up to $240 billion a year and lift 140 million people out of poverty across the world by 2015. These are certainly objectives that are worth pursuing, and we as the Australian government are certainly going to maintain our engagement in pursuing those objectives.