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Transcript of a doorstop interview of Mark Vaile MP: Parliament House, Canberra: 13 August 2004: Passage of Australia- United States Free Trade Agreement through Australian Parliament.



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Transcript

E and OE

13 August

Doorstop interview, Parliament House

Subjects: Passage of Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement through Australian Parliament

VAILE: Thanks very much. I'm very pleased to announce that the enabling legislation for the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement has passed through the House of Representatives this afternoon, albeit with two unnecessary amendments from the Opposition that were injected into the

legislation in the Senate. The Government has taken the view that it is too important and it is in the national interest that, notwithstanding those unnecessary amendments, that we get the legislation through so that we can move onto the next phase of implementing this all important agreement that is going to deliver $6 billion worth of benefit to the Australian economy and 30,000 jobs in the Australian economy.

We've been right through all the issues, there's been a massive amount of public debate over the last six months both outside and inside the Parliament and this is quite an historic and significant day. We're following on from the passage of the legislation in the US Congress, we've now passed the legislation through both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and it will go off to get signed by the Governor General.

As I say, a very, very important day in the history of Australia's trading relationship with the United States, and one that a lot of commentators three or so years ago made the point that they didn't think that it could ever be achieved. They didn't think that we

could negotiate an acceptable deal with the United States. They didn't think that we could get it through the US Congress. We got it through the US Congress with significant majorities. We've now passed it through the Australian Parliament and we're on our way to implementing on the first of January 2005.

QUESTION: Minister, given the comments from the US overnight how do you rate the possibility that the United States will scuttle this deal?

VAILE: I don't know that scuttle is the right word to use. I think I indicated yesterday the possibility that in their assessment of the legislation they may challenge those amendments, but that's just something that we will have to deal with. We flagged that to the Labor Party that if that was the case we would have to deal with that at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: So you're saying that's a low risk are you Minister?

QUESTION: When will we know that?

VAILE: Well Michelle, as has been indicated and I've read in the media comments from USTR. that they're not going to get involved in the Australian process, not going to get involved in the political process in Australia. The next point in this, in the implementation process, is that around about the end of October there needs to be an exchange of letters between Governments accepting that each others legislation has ’• is acceptable in terms of implementing the agreement on both sides. And so if you're looking for a point in time, it's around about the end of October.

QUESTION: Is there a precise date?

VAILE: No there's not a precise date, it's just agreed in the FTA that I think it's approximately 60 days before the implementation date that there would be an exchange of letters between Governments accepting each others legislative process.

QUESTION: So you would anticipate they'd leave that until after the election?

VAILE: Well I don't know when the election's going to be, but the thing is that that's

what's in the agreement and I would presume that that's as has been the case all through this process, you know, what the Americans will do.

QUESTION: But if there's no exchange of the notes you can still make any changes after the election?

VAILE: Oh well the thing is that if there need to be amendments then obviously it needs to be brought back to the Parliament. And that's something that we flagged to the Labor Party when we proposed some alterations to their amendments that we felt would make them more acceptable if you like that there was always going to be that prospect and we'll just move through the process. As we've said it is too important for the Australian economy and for future generations of Australians to miss this opportunity now. We knew all along we would need to have Labor Party support in the Senate to get it through the Senate. We argued for two weeks and discussed with them their concerns and the issues they had raised and made some suggestions till we got to the point today where the legislation

came back from the Senate with the amendments and it's been passed through the House of Representatives.

ENDS

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