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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 910

Senator LOOSLEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I refer to a number of significant APEC trade and investment gatherings held earlier this month in Indonesia. Reports suggest that the meetings were among the more positive that APEC has held. Is the minister in a position to outline the progress which has been achieved to date by APEC? Could he advise the Senate on the prospects for APEC delivering concrete results this year in the areas of trade and investment?

Senator McMULLAN —I thank Senator Loosley for the question and for his continuing interest in the subject. The APEC meetings to which Senator Loosley referred were both very important: the committee on trade and investment and the senior officers meetings held in Indonesia from 16 to 20 May. They have been reported to me by the officers who attended as amongst the most productive to date, particularly on trade and investment issues. The suggestions from those officers are that this was significantly enhanced by the very significant job which Indonesia did in hosting these meetings.

  The meetings confirmed that there is a significant opportunity for all of the members of APEC, and for Australia as one of them, to record a series of positive steps in APEC's development this year. The meetings confirmed considerable forward movement on Australian priorities, such as investment and standards. Progress was made on a draft agenda for the APEC trade ministers meeting in October, which will aim to lay the base for steps to remove impediments to trade in the region. APEC leaders' representatives had a very fruitful discussion about the second leaders meeting, which Indonesia will host in November, the outcome of which will be very important for the region as a whole.

  These meetings were important in general terms, but I would like to refer, in response to Senator Loosley's question, to some specifics. There was important progress on the Australian Prime Minister's initiative on investment, with the basis having been established for agreement on a non-binding set of APEC investment principles before November. Principles under discussion cover key investment themes, such as national treatment, non-discrimination and transparency. There were very constructive discussions amongst APEC investment experts. There was a tentative set of draft principles assembled by Australia and a small group of other members. We are quite optimistic that a more formal draft document will emerge from a further meeting in September.

  Australia's draft framework to guide APEC's work on standards was also adopted. There was agreement on a substantial work program, with the ultimate aim of reducing the cost of duplicate testing and differing standards in the region, which could have a very significant impact on trade within the region. It is a very significant trade enhancing impact and it will be very good for living standards of Australians and other citizens of the region. Agreement was also reached on terms of reference for APEC's work on customs and a breakthrough was made on a proposal for a tariff database pilot project which has potential significance to be of great value to the APEC business community.

  The impressive progress achieved at these meetings reflected increased involvement and commitment by APEC members, and this has been reinforced by the desire of the region's leaders to identify themselves so closely with APEC's future. It is evident also that, with the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, regional governments are now focusing on how to pursue regional economic integration more effectively. I think these are important trends, important to Australia's trade future and important to the economic development future of the region.

  The key development during the year will be the second APEC leaders' meeting in November in Indonesia and the associated annual ministerial meeting. We think there is a very real prospect arising from the meetings to which Senator Loosley referred that leaders will be well placed to set out at that meeting a vision for APEC's future, focusing on cooperative economic integration in our region.