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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 111

Mr NEVILLE —Mr Speaker, my question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Would the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House how Australia's trading performance is standing up in the face of global economic uncertainty?

Mr TIM FISCHER —Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Hinkler for his question, and I congratulate him on his fine victory in that very marginal Queensland seat.

The short answer is that our exporters are doing extremely well in very difficult circumstances. They are diversifying and contributing greatly to the economic performance, as reflected by the comments in the Economic Roundup by the Treasury and by the most recent comments this day by the Treasurer. In fact, it is a superb performance, and it means more jobs here in the Australian economy.

Exports to the USA are up 40 per cent in the nine months to September compared with the same nine months of the previous year. Exports to the UK are up 85 per cent, and include some specular efforts by the Australian wine industry. Wine industry exports for this calendar year to the world will go through the $800 million mark. Exports to India are up by 33 per cent. South Asia is certainly building up nicely. Exports to Germany are up 32 per cent. Germany is a critical market in Europe and a linchpin for our activities in that direction.

Even in Asia exports have been mixed, which is a sign of softening. Japan is up seven per cent, Taiwan is up seven per cent, and Hong Kong, notwithstanding all the difficulties of that economy but perhaps reflecting its hub port role, is up eight per cent.

The key to this has been the government's determination to encourage our exporters to diversify and to spread the Austrade network and the focus beyond traditional markets into South America and elsewhere.

In addition to that, we are putting real effort into country to country bilateral negotiations, and there is real progress in the outcome for the Market Development Task Force. I am pleased to advise the House that tomorrow, ahead of the APEC meetings in Kuala Lumpur, I will table the individual action plan for Australia, Trade equals jobs. The government has maintained this pattern of producing an IAP so that nothing is being done behind closed doors. That will be available to everybody.

Finally, I add that the government will be contributing to the recognition of the gold medal performance of our exporters with the National Export Awards coming up early in December in Sydney. I look forward to those.