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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6229

Mr CREAN (Minister for Trade) (7:45 PM) —The Gulf Cooperation Council is an issue for us not just in automotive terms but because, in my view, there is a huge opportunity for a strengthened economic relationship with the Gulf. We sent officials last week for another round of negotiations but were disappointed that they were not prepared to put a goods offer on the table. I have had telephone conversations with ministerial counterparts within the region, in particular with Saudi Arabia, to try and advance the political will in these negotiations. As for the European negotiations, they have not been able to conclude. We have made it quite clear that if any concessions are made on autos then we would expect the same consideration to be given to us. But, quite frankly, what we are looking for is a much wider relationship than just autos.

Mr Truss interjecting

Mr CREAN —They have made no more progress either as far as I am aware in terms of autos. But, in any event, the commitment that we are seeking is that if they extend any entitlement in terms of preferential treatment then we would expect that to flow to us, and I have been very clear on that.

Let us talk about Vietnam and market economy status. Yes, we did recognise market economy status and we were prepared to do it because Vietnam was prepared to pay for it. They paid for it by signing up to AANZFTA—the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement—whereby they have had to make important concessions for market liberalisation. You have heard me talk about AANZFTA before. It is collectively our second-largest market behind the EEC. It is something in the order of $80 billion in two-way trade before this free trade agreement was struck. It has 600 million people and those countries, Vietnam and Indonesia included, are still growing. So these are opportunities for us to grab that market share, hence the need to invest in the Export Market Development Grants Scheme to help our companies get market share.

You asked me the question as to how we rationalise that compared to our criticism of you on China and the granting of market economy status. It is simple: because you got nothing in return. You negotiated a dud agreement. That is why, after having conceded the point about market economy status, the talks stalled. They got what they wanted and made no commitment to do anything else. Now you come and ask us if we are making progress. You have conceded the most significant point to them without getting a damn thing in return. There is a fundamental difference between our approaches; and not just to negotiations generally but to understanding the importance of getting a give and take concept—the fundamental concept of bargaining—which seemed to escape your previous government.

As for China, the talks have stalled at the technical level but they have not stalled at the political level. What we still have to break through with at the political level is the coordination mechanism within China itself. I believe the political will to conclude this agreement does exist. It is a political will that has been exchanged at the leadership level with our Prime Minister and their president and prime minister, as well as at the level of my engagement with the trade minister. I went to Beijing about six weeks ago and made it quite clear that we were not going to settle, in agriculture, for anything less than New Zealand and that they needed to understand that. Secondly, given the whole issue surrounding investment in this country, they needed to understand that investment was a two-way street and that we should also be developing a framework for facilitating investment flows between our two countries.

The only point I make in terms of the next trade negotiating round is that I am not going to send officials to negotiate the next round unless we get a stronger political signal. If we were to get the political signal, we would be there tomorrow to undertake the 14th round. This is the clear message that we have conveyed, and I am in regular contact with my counterpart in China. I am confident that we can conclude an agreement, but it is only going to happen if the political will is not only given but subsequently acted on.

Proposed expenditure—$4,966,185,000—agreed to.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Portfolio

Proposed expenditure, $565,856,000