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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5627

Mr CREAN (Minister for Trade) (10:56 AM) —I thank the member for Wide Bay and the member for Lowe for coming in from two different perspectives, I suspect, of Doha, which I will come to in a minute. I say at the outset that I do agree with the member for Wide Bay that we should share ambition in the results of our trade negotiations but I disagree fundamentally with him on his analysis. I will come to Doha in a minute. Let us just remind ourselves of the so-called quality agreements that he says were the hallmark of the previous government. First of all, we have the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, in which the Liberal Party sold out the National Party, even though the Leader of the National Party was the chief negotiator. They sold them out because they excluded sugar completely; it was a complete carve-out. Do not tell me that was a quality approach to an agreement. This was an agreement at any cost because the Prime Minister of the day wanted a political trophy; he did not care about its contents.

Let us go to the China FTA. I quote the words of the member for Wide Bay, who said, ‘We shouldn’t just give things away.’ What did the previous government do in terms of the China free trade agreement? It gave away the recognition of market economy status and got nothing in return. We inherited the circumstances of having to pick up the pieces with China in which China had gained what it fundamentally wanted. We believe we have injected new political momentum into the negotiations on the FTA, because we are focused on the importance of investment as a two-way exercise, not a one-way exercise. We are focused on the importance of energy security. We have widened the FTA beyond just the agriculture issues to understand the fundamental importance of services in terms of economic development. We have broadened the quality of the approach and the direction of the negotiations.

Just to cap off our so-called failures, what about the conclusion of the free trade agreement with the ASEAN group of countries? This is a group of 10 countries with a combined total of 600 million people and a combined GDP at the moment in excess of US$3½ trillion. Collectively, these 10 countries are Australia’s biggest two-way trading partners. Collectively, they are bigger than China, Japan and the US. This is the most comprehensive FTA that ASEAN has ever entered into. It covers goods, services and investment and it has been referred to by the ASEAN nations, Singapore in particular, as a gold quality FTA. So much for the fact that we are not pursuing ambition! So much for the fact that we inherited a great legacy from the previous government!

Let me go to Doha, because I think it is true that Australia has helped inject new momentum into this round. I am not starry eyed about the simplicity of this. This is a very complex set of negotiations—as the member for Lowe indicated, 153 countries—on which all have to agree. Of necessity there are going to be compromises. But what we got—and within six months of the government coming to office—was almost a concluded round. That was more than had been achieved in the previous eight years by the so-called leadership under Mark Vaile that the member for Wide Bay refers to.

What we did was to bring this to the point of conclusion. The fact that we have not reached that conclusion is disappointing, but do not let it be suggested that we have lost ambition in relation to it. This is too important to lose ambition on, and Australia has been at the leading edge of suggesting creative ways forward in how we break the impasse. We are the ones who have opened up the services opportunities. We are the ones who have talked to Brazil, and they are the ones who have suggested subsectorals as an approach to resolving the remaining difficulties in NAMA. We have actively promoted trade in environmental goods and services as a way through. Most importantly, we have been at the forefront of running the agendas through the Cairns Group, through the Delhi process, through the horizontal process that enables cross-referencing of the outstanding issues.