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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 542

Senator Cormann asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 18 December 2008:

With reference to the answer to Question 17, taken on notice during the additional budget estimates hearing of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee on 21 February 2008 (Committee Hansard, FAD&T 154-5), regarding access to the Indian market by Western Australian Sandalwood producers, ‘The Australian High Commissioner has written to the Secretaries of the Indian Ministries of Commerce and Finance to seek the removal or reduction of India’s tariff on sandalwood oil. The Department will continue to follow up these representations’:

(1)   Can details be provided of all actions, including representations, regarding this issue undertaken by the department in 2008.

(2)   What follow-up to the letter cited in the answer took place.

Senator Faulkner (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —The  Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   In addition to the correspondence detailed in response to the second question, the issue was raised on 19 May 2008 as part of the Australia-India Joint Ministerial Commission Senior Officials’ Talks. The Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, wrote to India’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr Kamal Nath, on 27 June and included the tariff on sandalwood oil in a list of issues which currently impede bilateral trade and investment, with a request for India to lower the tariff. A further request to lower the tariff on sandalwood oil was included in correspondence (dated 18 December 2008) from the Australian High Commissioner to the Government of India in the context of the High Commission’s annual submission on the upcoming Indian budget. The High Commissioner’s correspondence was addressed to six ministers, including the Minister of State for Finance, the Minister of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, and the Minister of Commerce & Industry, as well as India’s two leading industry peak bodies (the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Confederation of Indian Industry). Australia also added sandalwood to its list of WTO Developing Country Priority Products in March 2008. The list of Australia’s priority products (exports) to India was handed to Indian officials in a bilateral meeting in the week ending 30 May 2008. India agreed to consider the list and maintain dialogue on the issue.

(2)   Dr Shyam Agarwal, Additional Director General, Directorate of Foreign Trade, wrote to the High Commissioner on 10 April 2008 seeking further information on the Australian sandalwood industry. Following receipt of information from Australian industry, the High Commission provided a response to Dr Agarwal in a letter on 27 August 2008.