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Keating's Asia initiative - too little, too late: coalition

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ALEXANDER DOWNER Member for Mayo, Shadow Minister fo r Trade _ .

& Trade Negotiations '; ; x v / ! -A L V i i f

| .. . . i

KEATING'S ASIA INITIATIVE - TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: COALITION The Federal Opposition said today that Prime Minister Keating's Asia initiative was a pale shadow of the Coalition's policy

initiatives to integrate Australia with the Asia-Pacific economies and was "too little,~too late" from a man who in eight years as Australia's Treasurer made not one single visit to an ASEAN country yet visited London eleven times.

The Shadow Minister for Trade, Alexander Downer, said the media in Australia had been duped by the Prime Minister's "initiative" which was vague on the details necessary to ensure his regional heads of government meeting does not become "just another

regional talk-fest."

Mr Downer said, "The Prime Minister has belatedly and rather 1imp-wristedly adopted what the Coalition has been saying for some time now. Yet Mr Keating has the audacity to claim the

Coalition is not interested in our region!

"Mr Keating has simply repeated what everyone, including Sir Robert Menzies, has been saying since the 1950s about Australia's need to integrate economically with the region. He has not added to the wisdom on how that is to be achieved one jot.

"Rather than detail what the Government will do to further the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) process he has merely suggested regular meetings of regional heads of government be held.

"By contrast/ the Coalition put forward over a year ago the most detailed proposals ever developed by an Australian political party to integrate Australia's economy with the Asia-Pacific region. These proposals, which include the creation of liberal trading arrangements for the region, should form the basis of the agenda for the regional heads of government.

"The Prime Minister is merely following in the Opposition's slip­ stream and is yet to catch up on the details of how to integrate economically with the Asia-Pacific region."

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 trading arrangement which will move towards

Δ f W Hnnrc fOSI 119 5152 Office No. (08) 391 0888

- ‘ non-discriminatory free trade.

More recently, Mr Downer detailed six steps a Coalition

Government would take in its first year towards eventually establishing a regional liberal trading arrangement. He said the Hewson Government would immediately on its election work 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; .

* facilitate intra-regional exports by

standardising customs documentation and clearance procedures; '

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

* establish 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,

- * achieve harmonised procedures of dispute

settlement within the region in the

interests of achieving stability in issues of market access.

Mr Downer said the Coalition agenda was a pragmatic step which provided the building blocks for Australia economic integration with Asia and called on the Prime Minister immediately to adopt this agenda as part of his Asia initiative.

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

For the record, Mr Keating's international travel record as Treasurer included visits to the United Kingdom 11 times, France 10 times and the US nine times compared with only three visits to Japan and one to China."

end s . Adelaide, 8 April 1992.


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