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Tuesday, 10 May 1994
Page: 486

Senator COONEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade, Senator McMullan. Yesterday the government issued an updated edition of its report United States trade barriers affecting Australian exports which deals with recent developments in bilateral trading relationships, including those affected by the outcome of the Uruguay Round. Does the government intend to pursue the issues it raises? If so, how?

Senator McMULLAN —Welcome back, Senator. I am very pleased to see my colleague back and in control. This is an issue of great significance to a large number of Australians and I hope to get an opportunity to say something about it here. Most senators will have seen media reports concerning the release by my department yesterday of a report entitled United States trade barriers affecting Australian exports. This is the second time that we have released a report of this nature. It is designed fundamentally to be another element in the debate about the opening up of trade and, particularly, addressing the balance of trade between Australia and the United States.

  This latest edition has been updated to reflect the outcome of the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations and other recent changes to United States trading policies. We welcome the fact that, as a consequence of those changes, some of the barriers are somewhat lower and some of the access opportunities are slightly enhanced. But it is important to note—because there has been some international coverage of some of these issues of trade imbalance—that Australia's trade imbalance with the United States is, in relative terms, bigger than that faced by the United States with Japan. We are trying to say to the United States, `We have a circumstance here where our trade imbalance with you is bigger proportionately than yours with Japan, and yet you have trade barriers to our legitimate export industries and you should be seeking to do something about lowering those restrictions, particularly the severely restricted access for a range of our agricultural exports like beef, dairy products and sugar.'

  Those markets should be more open. We welcome the extent to which they have been opened somewhat more, but they should be opened further; we would then have the opportunity to redress the trade imbalance. The subsidy practices and measures in the United States exacerbate this problem. The changes as a result of the round will alleviate rather than eliminate many of these impediments.

  We do not want to take an unbalanced approach to this. The United States has a more open market than many countries in the world, and certainly an open market to many of our products. Indeed, we have a very successful and rapidly growing manufacturing export trade to the United States. Four of our top five exports to the United States are manufactured products—that is, elaborately transformed manufactures. That is very welcome.

  We are putting out this report to make a further contribution to the debate here and in the United States about trade policy. We are seeking to continue the pressure that we have exerted with our Cairns Group colleagues, bilaterally and directly in meetings at ministerial and official level through the Cairns Group. This has also been done through negotiations in the Uruguay Round that were conducted by our officials and by my predecessors as trade minister, up to and including my colleague Senator Cook. Those collective efforts achieved significant improvement, but there is much further to go. That is unquestionably true, and the agricultural sector welcomes those significant changes for beef, sugar and dairy products—

Senator Kemp —What you are saying is not clear from the figures.

Senator McMULLAN —Those in the agricultural sector, unlike Senator Kemp—and I hope he feels better soon—welcome those significant changes but agree with us that much more needs to be done. We are seeking to work constructively and cooperatively with them to achieve those improvements in Australia's interests, and particularly in the interests of our primary producers. We have also made some significant gains in some of our resource based and mining based industries. The United States is Australia's second largest trading partner. We do have with that country the opportunity to raise, regularly, contentious issues and we intend to continue to do so.(Time expired)