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Cold comfort for Australian farmers in Europe



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BRUCE LLOYD

M edia Release F o r further information: Parliament House, Canberra A C T 2600

Telephone: 06/2774193 Facsimile: 06/2772053

COLD COMFORT FOR AUSTRALIAN FARMERS IN EUROPE

The Australian parliamentary delegation to the European Community received cold comfort on any immediate reduction in the level of export subsidies, but some hope for an agreement on the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.

National Party Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister for Primary Industry, Bruce Lloyd, who was part of the bi-partisan delegation to Paris, Bonn, Brussels, The Hague and London, said the EC was even less sympathetic to the plight of Australian grain growers than US Congressmen and officials w^re earlier in the year.

The delegation met with European Ministers for Trade and

Agriculture in each of the four countries, and EC Commissioners Andriessen and Mac Sharry in Brussels.

"They were also either ignorant of, or did not care about, the effect EC export subsidies were having on our dairy, sugar, rice, processed horticulture and meat industries."

Mr Lloyd said prior to the delegation starting in Paris, he and Senate Opposition Leader, Robert Hill, had a full day of

briefings in Geneva with the GATT Deputy Director-General, and his agriculture and services negotiators as well as the

Australian, US, Uruguay and EC Ambassadors to GATT.

"There is now a slightly more optimistic view of a successful Uruguay Round, with agriculture, textiles, services and intellectual property being the most difficult of the 14

sections.

The reasons for the cautious optimism include:

. A more genuine desire to achieve success by the EC compared with 12 months ago, and the EC Minister for Trade taking a greater role over the more negative agriculture ministers.

. The greater determination of the G7 countries, led by

President Bush, for a successful outcome. West Germany is the European key and it is anticipated that this country will change from its negative position of last December.

. Recognition that there will not be success without

agriculture. This was forceful1y reiterated by the

delegation.

. Recognition that there are significant advantages to the industrialised nations in the other areas.

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. Technical negotiations in Geneva have made progress in

defining acceptable and non acceptable forms of subsidies, tariffs to replace quotas and import bans etc. These are necessary parameters to quantify progress in the three key

areas of domestic and export subsidies and import access.

. Realisation of the potentially very grave international trade consequences of no agreement after five years of negotiations.

Mr Lloyd said the view in Europe is that general agreement

containing reasonable detail must be achieved by Christmas so that final arrangements can be concluded by mid 1992 to allow US approval ahead of its presidential election.

He said the four leading groups, the EC, Japan, USA and the

Cairns Group, will indicate their position this month to GATT Director-General Dunkel so he can put a comprehensive proposal in November for final determination by Christmas.

"Even if there is an agreement, it is obvious there will be only moderate change in the short term and therefore significant gains for Australian farmers is still several years away.

"Australia will have to decide whether to accept this more certain, but nevertheless painfully slow, alleviation of trade distorting subsidies against the very real possibility of an escalation of the trade war — including its extension to

additional commodities.

"Some early relief on export subsidies by the EC will be a key factor in this decision."

Mr Lloyd commended Dr Blewett, the leader, and other members of the delegation, NFF President, Graham Blight, Senator Hill and Brian Courtice for a disciplined team effort.

ends 7/10/91