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Tuesday, 24 November 1998
Page: 553

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (6:53 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

APEC provides our region and particularly Australia with a trade cooperation forum which remains very important. It is not a trade bloc as such, but it does provide a platform which facilitates trade reform and more. It also provides for the transfer of technology and economic cooperation and, importantly, a commitment to educate people about the benefits of trade liberalisation. One of the great challenges that remain for all of us in politics is to take people with us as we seek to achieve the overall benefits that trade reform brings while always acknowledging that any structural change to an economy, whether it is a national economy or a global one, causes some people and some industries to be hurt.

A number of key outcomes were achieved in Kuala Lumpur last week. There was a slowing of the reform process, but I think Australia played a good role. In fact, it ensured that APEC focused closely on the regional crisis, having prepared the ground on a number of fronts since October last year.

Australia's economic governance initiative was acknowledged by APEC ministers and leaders as a key contribution to the region. Leaders agreed to the proposals by the Prime Minister to reaffirm the commitment to APEC's free trade investment goals; to adopt national policies promoting growth; to endorse international best practice codes in transparency in financial sector management; to endorse a future role for the G22 in pursuing initiatives to strengthen the international financial system; and to establish a working group on private sector involvement in crisis management, which Australia has offered to chair. In line with a key trade policy objective for Australia, APEC leaders also stressed the importance of early progress on broad based multilateral negotiations in the World Trade Organisation. Other outcomes were not as high profile but were valuable in groundbreaking. There was further significant liberalisation through APEC economies for individual action plans and China, Indonesia and Korea, in particular, made important new liberalisation commitments.

The APEC blueprint for action on electronic commerce is a dynamic response to an important regional and global opportunity. Australia also co-chaired the task force which promoted that blueprint. We accelerated regional cooperation on the critical year 2000 computer bug program and will hold a regional crisis planning conference early next year. We secured APEC-wide endorsement for an Australian initiative to improve community understanding of the benefits of open markets, critical to raising understanding of the benefits of open markets and that trade equals jobs. We look forward to working closely with our New Zealand colleagues to achieve a strong outcome under their chairmanship in 1999.

APEC is a very important regional trade cooperation bloc to Australia. APEC commenced with very strong support from Aus tralia. We were very much part of the Bogor declarations in 1994 which set in place the 2010 and 2020 trade liberalisation timetable. That is important to us. We pushed it hard. It is a forum in which Australia will continue to play a very strong role. It did so last week, and we look forward to the next meeting in New Zealand in 1999.