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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14868

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY (3:00 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Would the minister inform the House of progress in the second round of negotiations with the United States for a free trade agreement. Why is the government pursuing this free trade agreement?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —I thank the member for Dawson for her question and recognise her very keen interest in the prospects of significant improvement, particularly for the export of sugar from her electorate, if we successfully negotiate a free trade agreement with the United States. To the first part of the member's question: members on both sides would be pleased to know that the second round of negotiations conducted in Hawaii last week have gone extremely well. Significant progress has been made, particularly right across all 17 working groups that have been established as part of this negotiating process. Those working groups have now mapped out a course of action for the rest of 2003, which hopefully will see us achieve our stated objective of concluding the negotiations by the end of this year. Negotiators now have a much clearer understanding of respective positions on both sides, and the next round of negotiations will take place in July, again in Hawaii, and will focus on the substantial market access negotiations.

The member asked why the government is pursuing this free trade agreement with the United States. We are pursuing it because we want to see better opportunities for Australia's exporters in getting better access into the largest economy in the world. The United States is the largest economy in the world. This negotiation will not be easy, but we see significant benefits—benefits for not just the Australian beef industry, not just the Australian sugar industry and not just the Australian dairy industry but also for manufactured products.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr VAILE —The members interjecting will be pleased to hear that we are also going to try to get better access into the United States market for shipbuilders like Incat in Tasmania, who would very much like to see removed barriers such as the Jones Act that limit their access into the United States market.

The objectives we are pursuing are as follows: we want to eliminate tariffs; we want to remove barriers to trade such as tariff rate quotas; we want to remove barriers to the export of Australian ships; we want to reduce impediments for Australian service suppliers; we want to see opportunities enhanced for the temporary entry of business people and their families into the US out of Australia. It is important to note that we will ensure as part of these negotiations that we do not impair Australia's ability to meet fundamental policy objectives. To that end—

The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin understands only one language, and so I warn him.

Mr VAILE —The member for Rankin and many other members opposite should note what has been stated on a number of occasions by the United States chief negotiator, Ralph Ives. He has said, `We are in no way going after the PBS.' Now the Labor Party still cannot get the message. They cannot understand simple English: they are not going after the PBS. He has also said on another furphy that the Labor Party are trotting out about local content rules—

The SPEAKER —The member for Bass is warned!

Mr VAILE —Ralph Ives said, `We are not seeking, as some in Australia have indicated, to abolish the broadcast quota or the subsidies that underpin that. Let's make that clear.' The American side have made that clear on two very important public policy issues—two public policy issues that have got the Labor Party all excited. The opposition, by not supporting our objective of negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States of America, are turning their back on Australia's exporters—and particularly Australia's farmers, including the farmers that the member for Dawson represents in North Queensland.

On this issue, I will leave the last words to two very successful Labor politicians in Australia who do support the government's position on this. I invoke the words of the Premier of New South Wales first. I quote Bob Carr. He said:

It is in Australia's interests to link ourselves with the world's most dynamic and creative economy. It's about more than trade, it is about more than investment, and it doesn't rule out Australia's growing economic relationship with East Asia.

Secondly, and in conclusion to my answer to this question, I will quote Peter Beattie, the Queensland Premier. He said:

A free trade agreement with the United States has my support because it has the potential to offer Queensland exporters unfettered access to a market of 280 million people.

The question should be: why won't federal Labor follow Labor in Queensland and in New South Wales and support the government's position on this?