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Wednesday, 9 December 1998
Page: 1715

Mr St CLAIR —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. What is the government doing to expand and diversify market opportunities for Australian exporters to build on the strong performance of the Australian economy?

Mr TIM FISCHER —I thank the member for New England for his question. I am reminded of the fact that he represents an economic region which is very diverse in its export effort, ranging from services such as the international pilot training taking place at Tamworth—and I hope to attend a graduation dinner this week—through to a small company, Jakab Industries at Tamworth, and also Ruddweigh at Guyra, which is exporting weighing equipment to South America. That reflects the diversity of our export effort.

I advise the House that total exports during the 10 months to October are up by 6.5 per cent. Exports to non-East Asia are up by almost 23 per cent. Significantly, this week, exports to Italy are up by 12 per cent, and exports to South Africa are up by 8.3 per cent.

We had the visit to Australia this week by the Italian President. We also have the visit of the South African Minister for Trade, Alec Irwin, to Parliament House this day for the joint ministerial commission between Australia and South Africa.

Our exports continue to grow and to diversify in terms of location—to places like South Africa, South America, the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere—and also in terms of content. This is helping to secure jobs in the export sector. Indeed, our ratio of exports to GDP is now around 20 per cent and nearly 1.7 million jobs are linked to our export efforts in both goods and services. We are not going to be complacent about this at the start of a second term. We have reactivated the Market Development Task Force, under the chair of Dr Ashton Calvert, to push the bilaterals strongly.

We have been involved with various regional initiatives and I will continue to push the envelope of lateral thinking to bring about further breakthroughs at that level and, at the multilateral level, we prepare for the World Trade Organisation ministerial next year in the USA. We mean business in activating and further expanding our trade agenda. I am pleased to inform the House that the 1999 trade outcomes and objectives statement will be presented to parliament on 11 February, at the start of next year's sittings.