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Wednesday, 30 March 1966

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade and Industry) - Yes. The honorable member and the House will recall that, upon the proposal of the Government, the House passed legislation a year or so ago authorising the establishment in the Australian tariff schedule of a column to accord preferences to certain manufactured goods exported from certain underdeveloped countries, This was done to give underdeveloped countries an opportunity to earn more exchange and to go ahead with their industrialisation and to give them a more equal opportunity for competition in our market with the goods of the old established and sophisticated industrial countries. The Parliament unanimously approved the proposal, which was widely approved also by the underdeveloped countries. It was a proposal acknowledgedly in breach of the traditional G.A.T.T. procedures and so we had, as I informed the Parliament, to seek approval - technically known as a waiver - to permit it to be implemented. This has taken some time, but I am glad to advise the House that the G.A.T.T. countries have now voted 50 to 1 in favour of the Australian initiative. Votes from eight countries have not been recorded yet. The voting will have the effect of enabling us, as soon as we can go through the procedural arrangements, to establish this new opportunity in the Australian market for goods from underdeveloped countries to compete with goods of other countries. It will not be directed at undermining Australian industry. The very great opportunity that this opens up will not be in the Australian market, where it will be sizeable but not decisive, but in other industrial countries which will be invited to accord to the developing countries the same opportunity that Australia has now accorded to them. When and if this is done - and I believe it will be done - the most dramatic action will have been taken to enable the developing countries to escape from their dependence on their own peasant agriculture or on the aid of other countries and to turn to a new phase of trade.

Mr Curtin - Put on another record.

Mr McEWEN - 1 should have thought the honorable member would have had the patience to hear this through because it is so important; great credit for it is attached to the Australian nation in other countries.

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