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Government turning its back on trade with Asia.



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FOR MEDIA

CRAIG EMERSON Member for Rankin

SHADOW MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, INDUSTRY AND TRADE

13 February 2003

GOVERNMENT TURNING ITS BACK ON TRADE WITH ASIA

By continuing to identify the United States as its preferred trading partner, the Howard Government is relegating Australia’s trade with Asia - the region that buys 55 per cent of our exports.

In evidence to the US International Trade Commission last week, the Australian Government suggested that a free trade agreement would send a message that Australia prefers to trade with the US:

“An FTA in effect sends the message to the business communities of both countries that our governments regard the other country as a preferred partner - a place where it is safe to do business and a place where the government is committed to maximising business opportunity” (Michael Thawley, Australian Ambassador to United States, Testimony Before the International Trade Commission, 6/2/03).

These preferential trade deals, described in the Government’s foreign affairs and trade white paper as ‘competitive liberalisation’, are taking Australia down a dangerous path.

In Senate Estimates today, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it supported those comments.

This comes on top of the Trade Minister’s comment yesterday while launching the white paper that an FTA with the United States is ‘the Government’s highest bilateral trade priority’.

The Howard Government’s neglect of Australia’s trade relationship with East Asia is hurting Australia - merchandise exports to East Asia fell by 4 per cent last year, despite the region’s strong 6.7 economic growth.

The Government must immediately re-engage with Asia and repair Australia’s reputation battered by the Prime Minister’s view of Australia as a deputy-sheriff to the US in the region and by his provocative language of pre-emptive strikes against sovereign Asian nations.

Contact: Craig Emerson 0418 781 386