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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 408

Senator MURPHY —My question is also directed to the Minister for Trade. Can he inform the Senate of the response from regional economies to the government's trade policies designed to engage our Asian partners?

Senator McMULLAN —Australia has put considerable emphasis on building our links with the Asian economies, but the very important thing to note is that there has been significant response and interest shown by government and business in the region about developing those links with us.

  The constructive approach that we have taken and the frequent contact we have developed with our neighbours across all the portfolios and the activity of the various ministers have generated considerable reciprocal interest in Australia, in Australian business and in Australia as a source of investment into the region. There is increasing two-way contact between Australia and countries of the region and, particularly and most importantly in trade and investment terms, increasing liaison between representatives of businesses in Australia and those in the neighbouring region.

  Just last week in Australia there were two major business missions led by senior ministers from the governments of Singapore and Thailand respectively. There was a mission from Singapore headed by the Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Goh Chee Wee, which further expanded what they called, and what we have called in our discussion, the strategic linkages between Australian and Singaporean enterprises, particularly in the building and construction and information technology industries.

  What we are talking about there is the significant possibility not only that we will build up the bilateral trade linkages between Australia and Singapore and the investment relationship between Australia and Singapore, but that businesses in Australia and Singapore will develop strategic linkages to go together into third markets. It is a question which was raised by the Prime Minister in his visit, followed up by Senator Cook in a subsequent visit, and now by the Minister of State for Trade and Industry from Singapore in leading a large business delegation here, looking at the possibility of joint opportunities for working together in new business markets, in particular markets in China, Vietnam and India.

  What was remarkable in the discussion was the common approach and attitude taken by the governments and businesses of both countries in terms of where the market opportunities might lie. Subsequently, we also had a visit from the Thai commerce minister, Mr Uthai, who led a very large business mission to Australia talking about linkages, trade and investment opportunities.

  It is important that Australia continues to project the links into the region, but it is very important we also note that this is not a one-way street. There is significant interest from governments, business and the trade and investment community in the countries in our region to do business with Australia, to invest in Australia, to receive investment from Australia and to build strategic linkages so we can work effectively in third markets in our region and more broadly.