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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6223


Mr CREAN (Minister for Trade) (7:18 PM) —I thank the member for his question. Clearly, a key part of the WTO negotiations is to improve market access across all sectors but in particular agriculture. One of the key factors on the table that has been negotiated to date is a significant reduction in the trade distorting subsidies that both the US and the EU engage in. In fact, there are significant reductions committed to if we can conclude the round. That is not to say that what that does is to give totally open opportunities in the European markets, for example. But we are keen to ensure that the flexibilities that remain for those countries in these negotiations do not result in further restrictions. To put it the other way, we are looking for flexibilities within the final settlement to increase quota access, for example.

You would be aware that the negotiations stalled last July, even though 80 per cent of the Doha Round is effectively concluded. The difficulty last year was in bridging the gap with the 20 per cent, and, quite frankly, the last six months have seen a stalling in progress at that level because of the US elections, the transition to the new government, the new US trade representative settling in, and the elections in India. The big breakthrough that we made last week—and the shadow minister, who I see is with us today, was also up at the Cairns Group meeting in Bali—was to not only get a resolution by the Cairns Group to re-engage at a senior-officials level and drive it at the political level to conclude the Doha Round, but also to get engagement with and support for that proposition by both US trade representative Ron Kirk and the new minister for commerce from India, Anand Sharma. That has given important new impetus to the round but, clearly, it is not going to be enough unless we can continue to drive it.

So there are meetings scheduled in the next couple of months that, at a political level, will enable continuing engagement to assess the opportunities. And I am talking here in the general sense—I know the question was specifically about beef, but I think the message that I am conveying here is that the Doha Round is going to be a good outcome for trade and for market access generally. We have got the OECD meeting next week in Paris. Officials are meeting in Geneva this week. We hope to be able to report progress and to engage. There will be a similar opportunity to try and advance this at the APEC trade ministers meeting in the middle of July. So I am encouraged, but it is going to need some persistence.

In terms of the beef market, one of the important bilaterals that we commenced recently was with Korea—we had the Korean Trade Minister out here—which is a crucial market, from a beef industry perspective, because of the agreement that has been reached now for products from the US to go back into Korea. We have indicated that what we want, from an offensive point of view, is to secure improved market access and, obviously, we will pursue that in the context of the Korean free trade agreement. Korea is a very good example because, even though the US market has opened up, Australian market share is holding up really well. And that reflects the quality of the product.

I shall conclude on this point. There are two crucial aspects to us improving our trading position: (1) is opening up the markets, but (2) is having quality product and an efficiently produced product that can compete in those markets. (Time expired.)