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Thursday, 4 June 1970

Mr McEWEN - Australia has been participating with other countries over a period of years in an endeavour to get a world commodity agreement covering dairy products. Negotiations have been taking place between the interested countries that are panics to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Some few months ago. the negotiations having concentrated at that time on skimmed milk powder, an agreement was reached in the GAIT. As is customary when that point is reached, the agreement then went to the governments concerned for ratification. Unhappily because the Government of Ireland was unwilling to ratify the agreement, there was a considerable hiatus before any further step was taken. More recently, all the other parties to the GATT which are principal exporters an.] importers of skimmed milk powder, other than Ireland. Austria and the United Slates, agreed to subscribe lo the agreement and to bring it into operation. There have been discussions with the 3 countries I have named, and the expectation is that those countries, while not subscribing in formal terms to the agreement, will not, as far as possible, trade in such a manner as to make the agreement unworkable. On those terms it is in operation at the present time, with the happy result that the world price of skimmed milk powder has increased by S3 1 a ton. which is a very useful advantage to the Australian dairy industry. Negotiations have now moved to a more difficult but more important area. An attempt is being made to negotiate a world commodity agreement on butterfat. This will cover, I think, 2 items of trade - butter itself and butter oil. 1 am sure I am right in stating that it is judged that it would be more feasible in the first step to perhaps seek a world agreement in respect of butter oil before turning to the problem of butter itself. Australia will continue to participate quite actively in this regard. We are heartened by the measure of success of the skimmed milk powder commodity arrangement. We will lose no opportunity, particularly co-operating with our sister country, New Zealand, to try to bring about a butter oil agreement and subsequently a butter agreement.

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