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Tuesday, 9 October 1956

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade) - The Australian Government, naturally, is very interested in the proposal for a so-called European free-trade area. We have been reassured by the announcements of United Kingdom Ministers that there is a clear understanding that foodstuffs and drinks would be excluded from any such scheme. We are in no doubt that Australia's principal exports to the United Kingdom - which comprise wool, drinks and a variety- of foodstuffs, including wheat - would be unaffected. I shall take early steps to secure complete clarification of the position, but I have no doubt, on my present understanding, that wine would not be involved. In addition to wool, foodstuffs and wine, Australia's principal exports to the United Kingdom consist of base metals, such as lead and zinc, leather and some other products. The position in regard to those articles is not completely clear, but I am seeking clarification. The honorable member can be quite sure that Australia's interests will be defended by this Government.

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