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Opposition welcomes APEC secretariat decision, sets agenda



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PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

R O D ATKINSON, M.H.R. FEDERAL MEMBER FOR ISAACS

ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE

MEDIA RELEASE

OPPOSITION WELCOMES APEC SECRETARIAT DECISION, SETS AGENDA

The Federal Opposition today said that it welcomed the decision at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting in Bangkok yesterday to establish a secretariat for the group and identified the next Coalition Government's

agenda for the body.

The Acting Shadow Minister for Trade, Rod Atkinson said that the Coalition supported the establishment of a secretariat for the APEC forum in order to consolidate the group and facilitate freer regional trade.

Mr Atkinson said, "An APEC secretariat could work to identify and reduce barriers to regional trade, and encourage the flow of goods and services and investment within the region.

"This is essential if the region is to sustain the high level of economic growth it has enjoyed over the last decade."

A meeting of APEC ministers to be held in Bangkok in September is expected to determine funding and staffing arrangements, as well as where to locate the secretariat.

Mr Atkinson said that the Fraser Coalition Government had envisioned the establishment of a regional OECD-type grouping with a secretariat over ten years ago.

Mr Atkinson said once the proposed APEC secretariat is established it should place six goals on its agenda the achievement of which would facilitate regional trade and investment.

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The six steps proposed by the Coalition on 11 March this year were:

* To establish regional cooperation for the exchange of information on patterns and trends in trade and tourism so that scarce private investment resources could be put

into the most productive projects in the region;

* to facilitate intra-regional exports by standardising customs documentation and clearance procedures;

* to harmonise legislation and regulations which impede intra-regional business and trade, particularly investment;

* to establish an agreement which would protect investments by regional economies within the region;

* to work towards the regional harmonisation of taxation policies so that private investment funds might be directed into the most productive areas of the region's different economies rather than

inefficient areas only because they offer tax breaks; and,

* to achieve harmonised procedures of dispute settlement within the region in the interests of achieving stability in issues of market access.

Mr Atkinson said, "The Coalition agenda for APEC is a set of pragmatic steps which will lead to freer regional trade and which could influence the goal of freer world trade because they are the first steps towards the creation of a GATT-

consistent Liberal Trading Arrangement (LTA) for the region.

"The Coalition believes APEC must set itself clear deadlines for the achievement of each of these steps if the APEC forum is to avoid becoming a regional talk-fest.

"It is also essential to involve regional business leaders in the APEC process to a greater extent than is presently the case if the forum is to be truly relevant to trade and the secretariat is not to become a bureaucratic white elephant."

ends. Canberra, 24 June 1992.

Contact: Alistair Nicholas on (06) 277 4720 or (06) 285 3798 A.H.