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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2567

Mr HUNT —I refer the Prime Minister to Friday's welcome assurance from the Japanese Government that it has no intention of settling trade issues with other countries at the expense of Australia. Is the Prime Minister aware that Australia's share of the quota beef market in Japan has already fallen from 80 per cent to less than 60 per cent? Is he also aware that the United States of America has secured 80 per cent of the offal beef market? In view of this unfortunate outcome for Australian beef producers of the last four-year beef agreement negotiations with Japan due to the political pressures from the United States, will he on this occasion match the status of the negotiations of the United States in 1983 when Vice-President Bush on several occasions led the negotiations personally? Will he visit Tokyo during the forthcoming negotiations on the new beef agreement as requested yesterday by the Cattle Council Australia President, Mr Peart?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I quite readily acknowledge the continuing real interest that he has in the matter canvassed in his question. Let me say that the Government is very closely monitoring, as I think the honourable gentleman knows, developments in the United States-Japan trade issues, including, of course, the question of access to the Japanese beef market. I am aware of the trend in the statistics to which the honourable gentleman referred in his question. The United States has apparently asked Japan to remove all import quota restrictions on beef from 1 April next year. Australia should benefit from any substantial liberalisation of the Japanese beef market provided, of course, that it was done on a non-discriminatory global basis. But we are concerned that Japan and the United States might be inclined, as the honourable gentleman implied, to resolve their trade differences bilaterally on a basis which could even further disadvantage Australia's beef trade after the current beef access agreements between Australia and Japan and the United States and Japan expire on 31 March next year.

I remind the honourable member-of course, he knows this-that negotiations for a successor bilateral agreement between Australia and Japan are expected to commence in the second half of this year. The Japanese have been made fully aware, I can assure the honourable gentleman, of our concerns about the present agreement and its discrimination in favour of United States beef which, again, was reflected in the honourable member's question. Without any doubt, the Japanese know that we expect this issue to be addressed in the new agreement to be negotiated between us. I can say that the matter was raised, for example, at the Australia-Japan ministerial committee meeting in January of this year. I believe that my personal intervention at this early stage would be premature. I remind the honourable gentleman that the Minister for Trade, during his forthcoming visit to Washington, will be making very clear this Government's concern that the United States should not seek to resolve its problems with Japan at the expense of our beef producers. That will be made very clear by the Minister when he goes to Japan. Let me say also that the Minister for Primary Industry is scheduled to visit Japan in June. Again, I assure the honourable gentleman that the beef trade will be one of the priority matters for his discussions with relevant Japanese Ministers.

So I can assure the honourable gentleman that the Government, in the ways I have been describing, will be taking every step that it can to maintain and, if possible, increase our beef market in Japan. Our beef producers, who are amongst the most efficient in the world, are entitled, I believe, as I am sure all honourable members would believe, to that share. I say finally to the honourable gentleman that I have the greatest confidence in my two Ministers who are directly responsible in this matter, the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Primary Industry. I think that is a confidence that the honourable gentleman would share with me. I simply say in conclusion, however, that, should my Ministers believe that at some stage of the negotiations my personal involvement would significantly assist, of course I would be prepared to respond positively to that suggestion.