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Labor's reviews jeopardise Australian export markets.

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

Australian exporters will be locked out of global markets unless Labor overhauls its half-hearted approach towards bilateral free trade agreements, Shadow Minister for Trade Ian Macfarlane said today.

''The folly of Labor's stop/start approach is blisteringly clear following reports that Australian beef exporters could be marginalised in an important Asian market, now that South Korea has removed restrictions on US imports.

''Given their competitiveness will be further jeopardised when the tariff on US imports falls under a free trade agreement with the United States, the successful completion of an Australia-Korea Free Trade Agreement is more urgent than ever.

''Unfortunately, the Rudd Government shows no sign of understanding this. So while Labor carries on in cruise control with its drawn-out review processes, Australia's competitors are snatching away our market opportunities.

''The previous Coalition Government understood the important and constructive role of bilateral agreements, as part of a comprehensive trade strategy, to shore up access to lucrative markets for Australian exporters, completing a free trade agreement with the United States and starting negotiations with countries including China, Japan and Korea.

''Australia has some of the world's most competitive and highest quality products to offer, but unless Labor starts governing for all Australians and provides some leadership instead of pushing paper, their markets will disappear.

''While Labor might be happy to initiate reviews and read lengthy reports, the rest of the world is leaving us behind. World Trade Organization figures show of all its member nations there is just one - Mongolia - not active in establishing free trade agreements.

''It is not enough to offer token gestures. Instead, Labor must embrace the full negotiating agenda, with the range of Australia's export markets, it inherited from the previous Coalition Government. Otherwise, it will condemn Australian exporters and Australian workers to the role of sideline spectators while the rest of the world cashes in.''