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Government worried about US stealing Australian markets.

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CRAIG EMERSON Member for Rankin


8 April 2003

Government worried about US moving into Australian markets

Trade Minister Mark Vaile today admitted that part of the motivation for a Free Trade Agreement with the United States is to stop the Americans using food aid to move into Australia’s grain markets.

Mr Vaile’s statement that he wants the FTA to include guidelines on food aid is an admission of concern that the US is moving into Australia’s wheat markets.

Government ministers have recently said that the US cheats on food aid (Agriculture Minister Warren Truss, Fraser Coast Chronicle, 13/3/03) and has stolen our wheat markets before (Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, Sunday Program, 16/3/03).

This follows admissions by Government officials during a Senate Estimates Committee in February that in the FTA negotiations the Government may seek rules to control American export subsidies.

So much for the FTA offering new benefits for Australia - the Government is now shaping it as a defensive ploy against new US expansion into our grain markets spearheaded by food aid.

What concessions will Australia have to give to obtain such a commitment - higher prescription costs for Australian families or the removal of local content rules for Australian television?

Until now the Government has said it is unconcerned about the US taking our wheat market in Iraq. Now, after months of questioning by Labor, the Government is acknowledging there is a problem.

In his upcoming visit to the US, the Prime Minister must obtain an ironclad assurance from President Bush that US food aid will not be used to take Australia’s wheat market in Iraq.

Then there’ll be no need to negotiate such an undertaking in the Free Trade Agreement.

Contact: Craig Emerson 0418 781 386 or Brendan Shaw 0413 013 501