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Hill concerned about EAEC and its role in trade liberalisation



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MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR ROBERT HILL LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Wednesday, October 16 Canberra 94/91

HILL CONCERNED ABOUT EAEC AND ITS ROLE IN TRADE LIBERALISATION

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill, today raised concerns about the proposed East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) and its role in trade liberalisation in the Asia- Pacific region.

He made his comments in a speech to a Coalition International Relations Task Force dinner in honour of ASEAN Ambassadors.

Senator Hill said that the Coalition supported ASEAN in its stated commitment to international trade liberalisation, and that the Asia-Pacific needed to resist the temptation to adopt inward­ looking trade policies.

Although the communique from last week's meeting of ASEAN Economic Ministers described the EAEC as GATT-consistent, compatible with the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum, and designed to expand co-operation in East Asia, the Coalition was still concerned about the rationale for the caucus.

He said ASEAN obviously believed that East Asian interests were not being articulated clearly enough, but important regional economies appeared to be excluded from the EAEC.

"In the interests of regional co-operation and unified positions - such as that being attempted through the APEC forum - it could well be counter-productive to have such a regional split," Senator Hill said.

The original aim of APEC was to give the Asia-Pacific a greater co-ordinated regional voice, and that it would be useful for the region to try to make APEC more relevant to regional interests.

"The development of trade blocs is a natural concern in today's global circumstances with the increase of protectionist policies, and our reservations about the EAEC must be understandable in this light," Senator Hill said.

"The Opposition would not like to see the EAEC evolve into an inward-looking body, where countries such as Australia - with a significant and growing relationship with ASEAN and East Asia - could be disadvantaged."

(ends)

Enquiries: Senator Hill or Mark Batistich on (06) 277 3170

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