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Tuesday, 14 September 1971
Page: 1231

Mr KELLY (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Minister for Trade and Industry has told the House that he will initiate negotiations with Hong Kong, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan and South Korea to try to stem the flow of low cost imports of woven shirts and knitted outer garments from these countries. Is the Minister aware that in. 1970-71 we exported to those 4 countries goods worth more than $83m in excess of imports from them and that our exports included well over $110m worth of primary produce? Will the Minister assure me that the future of this valuable export trade will not be jeopardised by the pathetic attempt to prop up an industry that is already being subsidised at the rate of $40m a year by she exporters of this country who in the end always pay the price for tariff protection?

Mr ANTHONY - I think it is a somewhat negative attitude just to disregard Australian industry, the investment that has been put into it, the people who are employed by it and the communities that depend upon it without giving consideration to the international factors that apply, particularly in the field of textiles. There is a fermenting and tormenting situation in relation to international trade in textiles. All developed countries are finding it extremely difficult to maintain their own textile industries against those countries which have a very low wage structure. To protect their industries - not absolutely or completely but to give them reasonable protection - these countries have had to devise ways and means of introducing either quantitative restrictions or voluntary restrictions upon imports into their countries. As 1 have mentioned in this House before, 11 developed countries have been able to negotiate arrangements with some of the countries the honourable member mentioned to restrain imports into their countries.

In the case of cotton textiles there is an international cotton textile arrangement. Some countries have agreements with the low-wage producing countries in order to restrain the volume of cotton textiles coming from those countries. For instance, I believe that the United States of America has 57 agreements relating to cotton textiles with different countries so as to protect its own industry. Australia will try to negotiate arrangements with those countries which are affecting it by their low-priced textiles which are coming into this country. I have not mentioned the countries. The honourable gentlemen assumed which countries might be giving us trouble, and we think that some of these are the countries concerned.

But the Government will not be cutting back on the amount of trade. Quantitative restrictions have already been operating in this area for the past 3 years, as a result of the temporary protection given by the Tariff Board's Special Advisory Authority. What we hope to do is negotiate voluntary restraints which will operate when the new Tariff Board recommendations are applied in 18 months time and allow those concerned growth on the Australian market, while at the same time being able to rationalise and reorganise our own textile industry so that at least the efficient sector of it can be maintained.

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