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Thursday, 19 November 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

It affords me definite pleasure to submit to honorable senators the bill to approve of the first comprehensive trade treaty concluded by the Commonwealth with a foreign country - the trade treaty with Czechoslovakia. This agreement represents a concrete- step in fulfilment of the policy of the Government to foster the maintenance and extension of markets for Australia's export products in foreign countries. I am sure that most honorable senators will agree that the prosperity of every Australian industry is basically dependent upon our continued ability to market the surplus primary production overseas at profitable prices. If our position in those markets is to be maintained, or the way prepared for an expansion of trade, it is essential that steps be taken to place the commercial relations of the Commonwealth with the countries with which we seek to do business, on a stable footing. The Empire agreements have demonstrate1!] that countries of diverse interests can achieve mutual benefits by increasing tininterchange of goods, and that Australia can enter into such agreements, and still remain free to pursue a policy > of progressive industrial development. In spiro of the fears voiced in some quarters, tho Government is convinced that agreements beneficial to Australia can be marlo without retarding the expansion of secondary industries and with general benefit to the widest interests of the Commonwealth.

As full details of the agreement, and particulars of the trade between Czechoslovakia and the Commonwealth are set out; in the explanatory memorandum circulated for the information of honorable senators, I shall confine my remarks to the principal features of the agreement and of the trade between the two countries. The trade with Czechoslovakia is regularly more than two to one in Australia's favour. It is steadily increasing in both directions. In 1935 Czechoslovakia imported Australian commodities to the value of ?872,000 sterling. For the year ended the 30th June, 1936, Australia's imports from Czechoslovakia were valued at ?395,000 sterling. Wool is predominant amongst our exports and, last year, amounted to about 53,000 bales. There is, however, an appreciable trade in hides, apples, lead, zinc, and pearlshell. Chief amongst Australia's imports from Czechoslovakia are glassware and plate glass, special types of steel, trimmings and ornaments for apparel, gloves, buttons, jewellery and imitation jewellery, and fancy goods, of various descriptions.

By the terms of the agreement, wo aru guaranteed the lowest, rates of duty now, or hereafter, accorded by Czechoslovakia to any other country, and equitable treatment in the event of any commodities in which Australia is interested being subjected to quantitative regulation. Tho Czechoslovak Government. definitely binds itself to admit, free of duty, Australian wool, sheep-skins and other skins, and pearl-shell, and to reduce the present duty on apples. The concession on apples should prove of particular benefit to Australia, in that the reduced rate is confined to the period in which apples from the southern hemisphere reach Europe. Even under the higher duty, Czechoslovakia has taken about 30,000 cases of our apples during each of the last two years. It is believed that these quantities can be increased appreciably with little difficulty, especially as, on all p.ides, favorable comment was heard regarding the quality of our apples. The treaty also safeguards our trade in lead and unset opals from any increase of duties.

On our side, the Commonwealth Government gives an undertaking to grant to Czechoslovakia the lowest rates of d unaccorded to any other foreign country, and not to discriminate against Czechoslovak goods in so far as the prohibition of imports, and measures for the quantitative limitation of imports, are concerned. Australia further undertakes to grant Czechoslovakia the intermediate tariff on 44 items, and to grant a reduction of primage duty on others; and iti the case of certain special steels, to continue to admit them under the by-law provisions of the tariff. The reductions of customs and primage duties which will result from the acceptance of the treaty are set out in detail in the memorandum circulated for the information of honorable senators. I do not propose, therefore, to recapitulate them. All reductions of tho duties imposed for the protection of domestic industry are supported by a recommendation of the Tariff Board. I commend the agreement to the approval of honorable senators.

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