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Keating should detail regional economic plan: coalition

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ALEXANDER DOWNER »»/«· Member fo r Mayo; Shadow Minister for Trade & Trade Negotiations

KEATING SHOULD DETAIL REGIONAL ECONOMIC PLAN: COALITION The Federal Opposition said today that the Prime Minister, Mr Keating, should take the opportunity while he is in Indonesia to spell out a constructive plan for Australia to integrate economically with the Asian region, not just use the trip as another political stunt.

Shadow Minister for Trade, Alexander Downer, said Mr Keating needed to develop a detailed Asian strategy if he was genuine in his desire to involve Australia more fully in the region.

Mr Downer said, "As it stands Mr Keating has merely called for regular meetings of regional heads of government under the umbrella of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Unless there is more to his plan, it runs the risk of becoming nothing more than a regular regional talk-fest.

"Labor in government has actually engineered the collapse of one regional heads of government summit already: the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meetings (CHOGRM), which included important regional nations such as Malaysia,

Singapore, New Zealand and PNG.

"The Keating plan does not make Australia any more relevant to the economic integration of the region and runs the risk that Japan and the US will come to dominate the APEC process".

The Coalition announced its proposal for regional liberal trading arrangements for the Asia-Pacific in February 1991.

The Coalition's policy calls for the eventual establishment of a GATT-consistent Asia-Pacific trading arrangement which will move towards non-discriminatory free trade.

Mr Downer detailed six steps Mr Keating should promote while in Indonesia to start the process towards eventually establishing a regional liberal trading arrangement. He said that if regional economic integration was to be more than pious platitudes, Mr Keating should argue for:

* the establishment of 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

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productive projects in the region;

* the facilitation of intra-regional exports by standardising customs documentation and clearance procedures;

* the harmonisation of legislation and

regulations which impede intra-regional business and trade, particularly


* an agreement which would protect

investments by regional economies within the region;

* 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,

* harmonised procedures of dispute

settlement within the region in the

interests of achieving stability in issues of market access.

Mr Downer said these initiatives, while seemingly undramatic, would lay the foundations for regional economic integration.

Mr Downer said that Mr Keating would adopt these proposals if the Prime Minister was serious about his Asia initiative and not merely grandstanding.

ends. Adelaide, 21 April 1992.