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Congress sending the wrong message.

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16 February 2009

Congress sending the wrong message The Minister for Trade Simon Crean is disappointed the US Congress has kept the Buy American provisions in the legislation for the US stimulus package.

Mr Crean said the provisions sent the wrong signal to the rest of the world in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis.

But Mr Crean welcomed the inclusion of wording to ensure the Buy American provisions were consistent with US international trade obligations.

“The Australian Government protested immediately against the Buy American provisions in January and we have kept up the pressure since then,” he said.

“The campaign by Australia, and other nations, has forced the US Congress to ensure the provisions comply with international obligations.”

“I also applaud the leadership shown by US President Barack Obama on this issue,” he said

The Buy American provisions must be implemented in line with US international trade obligations, including its bilateral free trade agreement with Australia.

Mr Crean said the Australian Government would do everything to ensure that Australian manufacturers, and particularly the steel industry, were not disadvantaged.

“The US has an obligation to Australia on government procurement under the Australia-US FTA and we will ensure those obligations are adhered to,” he said.

Last year Australian steel exports to the US were worth more than $484 million and was close to 20 per cent of Australia’s total steel exports.

The Buy American provisions bans spending on stimulus package projects unless all of the iron, steel and manufactured goods used are made in the United States.

The US Congress passed a US$787.2 billion (A$1.2 trillion) stimulus package for the United States economy last Friday and the President is expected to sign this into law shortly.

Mr Crean also welcomed the declaration by the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank

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Governors over the weekend to a coordinated response to the Global Financial Crisis and to push for an early conclusion of the Doha Development Round.

“Doha is crucial because if concluded it would open up trade flows and trade is a multiplier that can stimulate the world economy. Doha would also introduce new disciplines to further halt the tendency towards protectionism,” Mr Crean said.

Media Inquiries: Mr Crean's office 02 6277 7420 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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