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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3056


Dr THEOPHANOUS —Is the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade aware of today's newspaper reports in which Mr Arthur Dunkel, Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, is reported as having rejected present Australian trade policies and claiming that Australia is 'labouring under one of the highest tariffs in the world' and that unilateral reductions-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Burke will come to his question.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —That unilateral reductions in tariff protection will necessarily speed up domestic economic recovery? What is the Government's response to Mr Dunkel's intervention?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I thank the honourable member for the question. I must apologise to Mr Dunkel for not being able to see him today because of legislation in the House. I would be anxious to discuss with him the merits of GATT's so-called allegiance to tariffs as against the enormous protective devices which have now developed in the world. I do not think he would have any real answer. As an Australian, I want to go on record as saying that we are not the most protected country in the world. We fare very well indeed. We are probably in the 'least protected' category, even though we adopt tariffs as a method of protection. That was the GATT mechanism of protection in 1947. I think it went out of practice in 1948. As soon as it was brought in as a transparent method of protection, everybody decided to go to something not quite so transparent, namely, non-tariff mechanisms. We have discussed this at length.

I invite Mr Dunkel to address his mind to a couple of matters such as the agricultural subsidies of the European Economic Community and the voluntary restraint programs between the EEC and others and between the United States and Japan. He should also consider the licensing system. I have in front of me a cable from an exporter who is unable to export certain products to the EEC because it has given them a classification which nobody else in the world would give them. I would be very anxious for Australian coal to be allowed into the EEC. It is not so allowed. I said the other day that trade should be free and fair. It is neither, and it will not be because of what are called political considerations. There is no doubt that the nation states of the EEC are very anxious to maintain the votes of the farmers and, therefore, heavily subsidise their agricultural products. By the same token, the West German Government is anxious to maintain its majority by getting the votes of the miners. Accordingly , it has to pay over $100 a tonne for coal whereas we could supply it for about one-third of that price. In Japan we have enormous problems in getting access, particularly for fruit and vegetables because of alleged quarantine preservation . The point we want to emphasise is that we as Australians ought to have as much loyalty as the Japanese have to their Government. We do not have that in Australia. Mr Dunkel is fully entitled to be making observations about what he thinks are the problems of world trade. One of the most significant problems of world trade at the moment is the enormous debt of developing countries and their inability to service that debt. That, in fact, amounts to a contraction in trade . We urgently need another discussion about whether GATT is relevant. I suggest to Mr Dunkel that the matter will be irrelevant until such time as nations get together on the multilateral proposition of being able to reduce all methods of protection, tariff as well as non-tariff mechanisms.