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US Congress supports FTA, Labor still can't make up its mind.

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Media release

15 July 2004- MVT59/2004

US Congress Supports FTA, Labor Still Can't Make Up Its Mind

Trade Minister Mark Vaile today welcomed the strong vote in favor of Australia's Free Trade Agrement with the United States by the US House of Representatives as a sign of bipartisan political support for the deal and the broader alliance in Washington - something still sadly lacking in Australia.

The House of Representives voted 314-109 in favour of the FTA, with the US Senate expected to vote on the deal later this week.

The FTA passed Australia's House of Representatives last month and is to be considered by our Senate when Parliament resumes in the first week of August - 16 months after negotiations began and six months after the historic deal was concluded.

"The US vote is an important step in enabling the Agreement to come into force in January next year," Mr Vaile said.

"The strong bipartisan support in the US only highlights the inability of the Australian Labor Party to make up its mind on this historic FTA - which promises to add billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Australia's economy."

"With Mark Latham failing to show any leadership, the Labor Party is deeply divided. All the State Premiers - who are meeting Mr Latham in Melbourne today - support the FTA and want it implemented as soon as possible. They should convince Mr Latham to get out of the way and enable the benefits to flow to their states.

"Labor's born-again defence spokesman Kim Beazley's pro-FTA stance is well known and many other Labor figures support it, but Latham's backers in the anti-American left wing and militant trade unions continue to attempt to derail the deal."

"Mark Latham's hesitancy on the FTA is another sign of his inexperience.

"Kim Beazley's recall to the Labor frontbench will mean nothing unless it is accompanied by a change in Labor policy as well. The former Labor leader has got to show he has got the ticker to confront Mark Latham on the FTA, and urge him to get behind a deal which promises great benefits to Australia."

Media contact: Matthew Doman (Canberra) +612 6277 7420. Nicole Guihot (departmental) 02 6261 1555