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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2796

Senator BELL —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. Will the Minister confirm whether a countervailing duty of $A20 is imposed on Canadian pigs entering the United States? I ask the Minister to describe what measures this Government is taking to counter unfair trading by Canada, especially with regard to subsidies to its pork producers. Will the Government consider implementing immediately special measures to allow for the increased grain and feed costs to pig producers caused by the present drought?

Senator COOK —I will not necessarily take those questions in the order that they were asked, because the concept of Canadian pigs entering the United States at a subsidised rate perhaps requires some special treatment at the end of my answer.

  The Australian Government is aware of concerns of pork producers in Australia. According to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, there is an acceptable risk that the pigs do not carry any disease and thus are acceptably disease free. Senator Bell may recall that a major argument that the industry raised was that there was some transmissible disease present, but that has now been taken care of.

  We are aware that the industry continues to be concerned that, since July 1990, Canadian pig meat has been available in its frozen form to come to Australia. The Department of Primary Industries and Energy monitors the situation and, together with the industry—in this case the Australian Pig Industry Policy Council—is investigating whether or not there is a possible subsidy for this pork. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the year 1990-91, 1,000 tonnes of frozen pig meat valued at $4.4m came from Canada. That should be compared with the Australian production of 310,000 tonnes, or a value of $660m, for the same period. That is to say, the Canadian imports represent 0.3 per cent of production and 0.7 per cent of value. They are not a significant presence in the market.

  It is not the Government's intention to provide any payment to Australian pork producers. If there is a belief about dumping, the Government has taken steps recently to simplify the regulations and processes in taking applications about dumping. The Australian Pig Industry Policy Council, it was thought, might do that. It has not. It is now rumoured that some producers may. Thus far they have not. It is not a government function to do that.

  As to the last question about what subsidies apply to Canadian pigs entering the United States, according to the brief on this point, on the matter of United States investigations of subsidies of Canadian pig meat, the US did apply a countervailing duty of 9c Australian per kilogram in 1990 on imports of fresh processed pig meat from Canada. However, the Canadian Government challenged the US countervailing duty through the appeal mechanisms of the Canada-US free trade agreement. The US international trade commission subsequently determined that subsidies provided under the Canadian national tripartite stabilisation program were countervailable, but there was no threat of material injury to US pork producers. As a result, the countervailing duty was subsequently dropped and all duties previously paid on fresh pork were refunded to Canadian processors.