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Friday, 13 November 1964

Senator PALTRIDGE - On 30th October, Senator Wright asked me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, a question without notice regarding the imposition by the British Government of a 15 per cent duty on imports. Senator Wright said that there is provision in our tariff legislation for any United Kingdom industry affected by a proposed tariff in Australia to have the tariff deferred for 90 days, so that consideration can be given to it. He then asked whether there was any reciprocal mechanism to protect Australian industries from the impositions that the Wilson Government has proposed. I advised Senator Wright that I would refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Industry for investigation and he has now provided the following information:

1.   United Kingdom industries are allowed three months from the date on which a reference is sent to the Tariff Board, in which to prepare their case for presentation to the Board. However, this procedure applies only in normal circumstances and could not be applied if we were taking emergency action in the face of balance of payments difficulties.

2.   The United Kingdom 15 per cent, surcharge is a special temporary measure, outside the scope of normal tariff revision, taken to protect the United Kingdom's balance of payments. This is in the nature of emergency action.

3.   There is provision for emergency action under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the British measures are now under discussion there. Apart from this we have the right, under the trade agreement, to consultations with Britain about any matter which has an effect on the level of trade between the two countries and I have already initiated such consultations.

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