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Wednesday, 25 November 1959


Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade) - An announcement has been made that Ministers representing the seven nations named by the honorable member have signed a convention in Stockholm. It is designed to establish what is called the European Free Trade

Association. This so-called European Free Trade Association will not come into existence officially unless and until the governments of the nations named ratify the convention. It is designed to eliminate tariffs between member countries, but will apply mainly - I think almost entirely - to industrial goods. Because the free trade convention will apply to industrial goods, it will not impinge significantly upon Australian preferences with the United Kingdom. Indeed, I should say that the United Kingdom has been very firm in declining to enter into any arrangement that would necessitate the abandoning or serious impairing of the system which has been historically known as the system of imperial preference.

The free trade area differs from the socalled European Common Market, which is comprised of the six countries mentioned by the honorable member, in that a common external tariff is not intended to apply in the case of the free trade area, whereas the European Common Market group of six countries intends, over a period of twelve to fifteen years, to establish free trade within the group of six and also to establish gradually a common external tariff equally applied by all of the six. Those are the main distinguishing features of the two groups.







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