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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8177


Senator O'Brien asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice, on 15 October 2002:

(1) What forms of economic protection has the European Union (EU) provided to EU sugar cane producers since 1985.

(2) What meetings has the Minister, or any of his predecessors, had since March 1996 with officials of the EU in order to lobby for the reduction of EU economic protection of EU sugar cane growers.

(3) When was each meeting held.

(4) Where was each meeting held.

(5) Who attended each meeting.

(6) What records were kept of each meeting.

(7) What meetings has the Minister, or any of his predecessors, had since March 1996 with officials of the World Trade Organization in order to lobby for the reduction of EU economic protection of EU sugar cane growers.

(8) When was each meeting held.

(9) Where was each meeting held.

(10) Who attended each meeting.

(11) What records were kept of each meeting.


Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The European Union supports its sugar beet growers by supporting prices. An internal support price, called the intervention price, is kept at levels that are generally well above world prices. The intervention price is maintained largely through import restrictions and subsidising exports to enable surpluses to be sold. This price support encourages domestic production, discourages consumption and creates surplus stocks which are sold onto world markets at depressed prices. For further detail on sugar trade and protection in the EU, we refer you to Sugar: International Policies Affecting Market Expansion (ABARE 1999) - Chapter 4.

(2) to (6) It is not possible to identify all meetings in the detail requested. Opportunities are taken in a range of meetings, such as bilateral, regional and multilateral and in the margins of all three types of meetings. In all meetings with the European Union, Ministers for Trade since 1996 have taken the opportunity to register Australia's strong concern at the lack of progress in the reform of European Union agriculture. Ministers have, on frequent occasions, outlined to European counterparts the tremendous distortions that the Common Agricultural Policy imposes on international agricultural trade.

The European Union sugar regime is an integral part of its agricultural regime and as such has been a key target of Ministerial representations for many years. Failure to deal adequately with Sugar has been a key part of Australian concerns over the way the European Commission is currently approaching the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy. Sugar was also a major concern during the many representations the Government made on the Agenda 2000 proposals. Our Mission in Geneva has also expressed to the European Union Australia's disappointment that while trumpeting its “Everything but Arms Package” of market opening to developing countries, the EU actually chose to phase in over a long period important products such as sugar, which remain subject to quota.

(7) Ministers have not lobbied officials of the World Trade Organisation. Article IV of the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO states that members of the WTO shall not seek to influence the Secretariat. Moreover, officials of the WTO Secretariat do not have the capacity to influence reform of the EU's support to sugar producers, so any such lobbying would be superfluous.

(8) to (11) Not applicable, see answer to Question 7.