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Thursday, 5 December 1974

Mr WHITLAM - The honourable gentleman will realise that the Government and I have been giving considerable attention to this matter for some months past. I did discuss the matter with President Ford in Washington and with Prime Minister Tanaka in Canberra. I expect to be discussing it next week in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Economic Community, and probably in Moscow in January. As the honourable gentleman will have known, I will be accompanied to Europe by the Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade and there will be relevant officers from other departments which might be concerned with any arrangements which are made in connection with trade. The fullest opportunity was taken to impress upon Mr Tanaka the seriousness of the Japanese ban on meat imports and its effects on the Australian beef industry. Australia pressed most firmly for the re-opening of the Japanese beef market. As regards the United States, that market is not restricted, but I took the opportunity during my visit to Washington to express Australia's concern that no restrictions be imposed. I did that not only with the President whom the honourable gentleman mentions, but also with the leaders of both sides- the majority and minority leaders in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. I have already said in the House that I would raise the question with the representatives of the European Common Market, and I welcome the opportunity to say that I will be seeking an opportunity to do likewise in Moscow. Last week, as I informed the House, a senior official from the Soviet Union discussed with me the subjects which we would be raising, and this was one that I mentioned to him.

The Government fully appreciates the serious situation in the Australian beef industry which has arisen because of the restrictive action taken by other countries against beef imports. There are political difficulties in all those other countries because there is a limited number of countries where the population eats meat in any quantity and those countries usually have an indigenous industry which exerts very considerable political pressure against imports of meat. The Government has used every possible means to make Australia's concern known and to seek the re-opening of markets. These have included representations at the highest level, visits by delegations, action in relation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and an Australian initiative in Washington in October to bring the major exporting and importing countries together with the object of achieving greater cooperation and consultation. These efforts will be continued with all possible vigour. I will be happy to pursue them myself as the opportunity arises in future as I have in the past.

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