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Thursday, 13 April 1961

Mr McEWEN - The honorable gentleman has raised quite an important matter. [ do not think that he correctly interpreted what Mr. Macmillan is reported to have said in Canada; but the factual position is that it is well known that the United Kingdom believes it to be desirable that there should be a wide trading association in Europe in which the United Kingdom would wish to be associated with all the west European countries. She is already associated in an agreement with six of the west European countries in the so-called Bloc of Seven, and it is well known that she would wish to be associated with the Six on terms that would be acceptable to the United Kingdom and which the United Kingdom would be satisfied would not impair the real interests of Commonwealth countries. This Government has always said that we believe that it would be desirable, in the interests of greater political cohesion in Europe, that the United Kingdom should be joined with the great western European industrial and trading countries; but we have added that we believe this should be done only on terms that would not impair the vital interests of Australia.

So, we have given our support there, but at all times we have said to the United Kingdom that we want to be consulted by the United Kingdom Government. We want to be kept informed by the United Kingdom before the event of what she has in mind. We have had a succession of assurances that we will be consulted and that we will be informed before a definitive point is reached. The Australian Prime Minister himself made it clear in his speech on Tuesday night that he had discussed this matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd, the Lord Privy Seal, Mr. Heath, and the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Soames, and that we were in no doubt about the reality of consultation. Indeed, at the meeting with those Ministers at which Ministers of other countries were present, it was agreed that a meeting of senior officials should take place about May, I think, to explore the situation. As to Australia getting into a position to amend our trade agreement with the United Kingdom and make bi-lateral deals with other countries-

Mr Calwell - I was thinking not of European countries but Asian countries.

Mr McEWEN - With countries without limit, I might say. The Australian-United Kingdom Trade Agreement negotiated in 1956 stands for five years and is due to be reviewed in the next twelve months. It will be reviewed in the circumstances that exist; but the very modifications of our trading relationships which were negotiated in 1956 were made, as I have stated, for the purpose of giving us greater freedom to negotiate with other countries. Subsequently, with that added freedom, we have negotiated a series of trade deals with other countries as the House will know. That represents the policy of the Government.

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