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Foreign Minister discusses when US free trade agreement will come into effect.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS HON ALEXANDER DOWNER, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: November 18 2004 TITLE: Interview with Catherine McGrath, ABC Radio National “AM” Program

COMPERE: A date has finally been set for when the US Australian free trade deal will see the light of day. Final agreement was reached in the early hours of this morning - Australian time - in the Chilean capital Santiago. Australia’s Trade Minister Mark Vaile and US Trade representative Robert Zoellick have agreed that the FTA will come into force on the 1st of January next year. The Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has told our chief political correspondent Catherine McGrath, in Santiago, that it’s good news for the Australian economy.

MINISTER ALEXANDER DOWNER: We’ve obviously had to talk through with the Americans - particularly since our election, and they’ve had their election as well in that period of time - some of the reservations that they’ve had, and we’ve agreed to a number of technical measures which we think will strike the right balance. We’ll be able to protect our pharmaceutical sector and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which we’ve always said we would do, and whether Labor or its amendments got up or whether they didn’t, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme was in any case always protected. But, there are some questions in relation to copyright and penalties on copyright that we’ve agreed to take up. But otherwise, it’ll all come into force on the 1st of January next year, and that will be the greatest single trade agreement that Australia has ever concluded.

CATHERINE McGRATH, REPORTER: There was so much talk in the beginning that this Labor amendment - the move to stop the evergreening process by pharmaceutical companies - could actually bring the deal undone, but

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that didn’t happen. So was that in the end a good amendment that Labor brought forward?

MINISTER DOWNER: No, it was a superfluous amendment which has caused us to enter into negotiations over a, quite some number of weeks to try to placate the fears of the Americans. I think…

REPORTER: But their fears came to nothing didn’t they?

MINISTER DOWNER: Well in the end we have - I’m not sure about the Americans, but I am sure about us, I’m sure about the government fulfilling what we said we’d try to do, and that is that, well, we’d let Labor’s amendment go through the Senate, we didn’t have much choice because we didn’t control the Senate, and thereby ensuring that all of the legislation went through the Senate for the free trade agreement, and then we would try to persuade the Americans that this amendment wouldn’t undermine the integrity of the free trade agreement. And I think we’ve, on the whole, been reasonably successful in doing that.

COMPERE: Australia’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, speaking in

Santiago to Catherine McGrath.

ENDS……………………………………………………………………..……..November 18 2004