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US-AEAN free trade agreement



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P A R L IA M E N T O F A U S T R A L IA

H O U S E OF R E P R E S E N T A T IV E S

PARLIAMENT HOUSE CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600 TEL. (06) 277 4720, 277 4419

FAX. (06) 277 4990

HON. ANDREW PEACOCK. M.P. MEMBER FOR KOOYONG SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE

LEVEL 16 90 COLLINS STREET MELBOURNE, VIC. 3000 TEL. (03) 650 3455

FAX. (03) 650 5115

PRESS RELEASE BY HON. ANDREW PEACOCK, HP SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE

The Shadow Minister for Trade, Hon. Andrew Peacock, today said the Federal Government must be seriously embarrassed by President Bush's announcement that he would seek to establish free trade agreements between the US and ASEAN, and other Asia-Pacific economies including Australia.

Mr Peacock said, "The Government has spent a week seeking to ridicule the Opposition for putting forward such a proposal because it believed the US would not be interested in pursuing a free trade agreement with Australia.

"Now the President has not only indicated that he is interested in a bilateral agreement with Australia, but has shown that it was John Hewson's interest in closer economic ties with the US which led Mr Bush to consider Australia as a

future partner to a free trade agreement."

Mr Peacock said that President Bush's proposal was entirely consistent with the Federal Opposition's trade strategy to emphasise bilateral trade negotiations and relations, and seek, in the long-term, an Australian free trade agreement with the US or entry into NAFTA.

He said, "The Bush proposal flies in the face of criticisms by the Government and media commentators who have suggested the US would not be interested in a free trade agreement with Australia or anyone outside the Americas, and that it would

deunage our economic interests in the Asian region.

"The proposal indicates the Bush Administration's commitment to free trade, its desire to keep NAFTA open and GATT- consistent, and his commitment to the economic development of the Asia-Pacific region which is dependent on access to the US market.

"It is therefore not possible to argue that a free trade agreement between Australia and the US would damage our economic interests in Asia.

"Asia continues to have the highest priority as far as the Coalition is concerned and we see the Bush proposal as a means to enhance our commitment to the region while taking advantage of trade opportunities wherever they exist."

Mr Peacock said the fact that the Australian Government has been taken by surprise on this matter is an indication that its trade strategy has failed. -

US-ASEAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT

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"The Australian Government has neglected bilateral relations to the point that our second largest export market, the United States, has not taken it into its confidence as far as advanced warning on important trade developments are concerned.

"The Australian Government was not given advance warning by the US of the changes to the Export Enhancement Program (EEP), it was not warned about the so called 'NAFTA Sugar Agreement', and it has not had forewarning of this latest and most significant US trade policy announcement.

"Consequently we have had the Government attacking the Opposition for having put forward a proposal which is consistent with the Bush Administration proposal.

"To make matters worse we have had the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Evans, attacking the NAFTA agreement at the APEC Ministerial Summit in Bangkok on the eve of this important announcement.

"The Government's inability to respond positively to the announcement is an indication that its trade strategy is moribund.

"It has not been able to think outside its single-track strategy of multi-lateral trade negotiations in the GATT and APEC and is yet to comprehend the significance of bilateral negotiations and free trade agreements on a bilateral or

regional level."

Mr Peacock said he also welcomed President Bush's initiative to negotiate a free trade agreement with ASEAN because it would strengthen the trilateral relationship which already exists between Australia, East Asia and North America.

"Clearly President Bush has in mind further free trade agreements to include other Pacific Rim economies in the same way that the Coalition has proposed pursuing our trade interests wherever they lie.

"The Australian Government should adopt the Coalition's multiĀ­ track trade strategy and increase its efforts at the bilateral level to ensure Australia is not left out of important developments on the international trade scene.

"A longer-term strategy should be to negotiate a free trade agreement between Australia and the US as well as other Asia- Pacific economies.

"A free trade agreement with the US offers the prospect of opening up the US market, in the long-term, to Australian beef, sugar and steel.

"At the same time, free trade agreements between Australia and the economies of East Asia, and between East Asia and North America would also be a great boost to the economic growth of all the economies involved."

ends. Melbourne, 11 September 1992.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW CONTACT ALISTAIR NICHOLAS ON (06) 277 4720 OR (06) 231 5306 A.H.

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