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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6602


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (3:49 PM) —by leave—This return to order was made on 14 November and relates to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his role representing the Minister for Trade. The order sought to get various documents relating to texts of requests submitted by Australia to other WTO members under the General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations. The government does not intend to publish the actual text of these requests, nor does it intend to publish the actual text of requests received or documentation analysing the impact of these requests. The government has provided summaries of requests Australia has made of other WTO members in press statements from the Minister for Trade, the Hon. Mark Vaile MP, of 1 July and 29 October.

The requests received are formal government to government communications. We are not aware of any other WTO member that has published the requests it has received from or the requests it has made of other WTO members. Release of requests made by Australia would also be inconsistent with commercial-in-confidence undertakings that have been provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to industry stakeholders.

The government is consulting, and will continue to consult, widely with interested parties in formulating its response to requests received. This response is due by 31 March 2003 in the form of an `initial offer'. Progress reports on the GATS negotiations are available on the DFAT website, www.dfat.gov.au, as is information about how to make submissions on particular issues. Officers from the department have also made a concerted effort to consult widely on GATS issues, including travelling interstate to meet non-government organisations and call for public submissions. The government will continue to publish as much information as practicable on its negotiating positions in the GATS where this would be consistent with commercial confidentiality and would not compromise Australia's negotiating interests.