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Time for Crean to get serious on free trade.

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The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP Shadow Minister for Trade (to 22 September 2008)

The collapse of the Doha round of world trade talks has further exposed the weakness of the Rudd Labor Government’s chaotic approach to trade, Shadow Minister for Trade Ian Macfarlane said today.

“Despite repeatedly declaring Doha was his top priority, and repeatedly talking down the value of bilateral FTAs, the best Trade Minister Simon Crean could offer in Parliament today was to say he had come “close” to securing a deal on Doha,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“But near enough is nowhere near good enough for the exporting businesses across Australia who have been subjected to a haphazard, politically-motivated trade policy from the Rudd Labor Government.

“Instead of pursuing a comprehensive trade policy that incorporated both the Doha round and new bilateral Free Trade Agreements, the Rudd Government has taken a policy approach that dismisses the benefits of FTAs and compromises the many opportunities available to Australian exporters.

“Exporters are now paying the price for a policy based on Labor Party ideology rather than an understanding of the reality of world trade.

“Trade Minister Simon Crean's inability to put forward a coherent and achievable trade policy has left the Rudd Government scrambling for a back-up plan while Australian exporters are left high and dry.

“Furthermore, Department officials told Senate Estimates in June that they had not been instructed to work on a back-up plan should the Doha talks fail.

“There are enormous opportunities available for Australian exporters from new bilateral agreements with a range of our trading partners especially China - one of our biggest trading markets, and South Korea - a market a non-government study has shown could be worth an extra US$22.7 billion to Australia’s GDP.

“The Rudd Labor Government can no longer offer excuses for not adopting a comprehensive trade policy that includes both multilateral and bilateral agreements, and works in the best interests of Australian exporters instead of jeopardising their futures.”