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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26243

Senator RIDGEWAY (10:34 PM) —I do not know whether the minister is familiar with the fact that during the Senate inquiry Professor Drysdale raised an issue in terms of treaty obligations that arise as a result of the free trade agreement, particularly in respect of the investment provisions. He also made reference to article 9 of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Australia and Japan which requires that Japanese companies be accorded treatment no less favourable than that of other companies in their investment activities in Australia. These treaty obligations, the minister may be aware, have been invoked by the government to resist the extension of preferential treatment in respect of investment under the closer economic relations arrangements between Australia and New Zealand. As the minister would also know, the government has announced that it does not intend to multilateralise the investment provisions of the proposed agreement. If the gains are as large as the government likes to trumpet based on the CIE report, presumably we would want to extend them to all countries as a matter of national interest. I wonder whether the minister might make some comments about that issue because it seems to me that, whilst there is a preferential trade agreement with the United States, does it not also invoke particular treaty obligations that we have with other trading partners, more particularly in relation to Japan, irrespective of whether or not they have made any approaches to the Australian government; if so, could he provide some explanation on that in terms of being accorded treatment no less favourable than any other country as we have done in this case with the United States? It has been a pretty special preferential deal for them. They get better treatment than others and so in terms of the investment provisions, does the minister have a response to that particular issue?