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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 409

Mr FULTON (LEICHHARDT, QUEENSLAND) - Is the Minister for Northern Development aware of the many Press reports emanating from overseas that the European Economic Community is opposed to a new international sugar agreement? To what degree can the EEC influence the outcome of the forthcoming international sugar negotiations designed to formulate a new agreement, and does the Minister agree that a new ISA is vital to the stability of the Australian sugar industry?

Dr PATTERSON (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Northern Development) - Answering the last part of the question first, there can be no doubt that in terms of the stability of the Australian sugar industry and the world sugar industry the International Sugar Agreement is a most vital agreement. The Agreement directly affects the prosperity of many areas in eastern Australia where sugar production really is a monoculture. The honourable member for Leichhardt knows full well the great advantage to his own area of Cairns of an international sugar agreement. Certainly we do not want to go back to the position that existed prior to 1968 when we saw the world price for sugar rise to above £St100 a ton and then a few years later drop to the disastrous price of £Stg 12 a ton. The successful negotiation of the 1968 International Sugar Agreement and the position that has existed for the last 5 years have shown the tremendous importance of this Agreement. In fact, almost every economic clause in the Agreement has been tested and proven to be successful.

I am aware of the attitude of the European Economic Community and particularly the attitude of France. At the May negotiations France opposed a new agreement. The EEC - this view was mainly held by France - wanted an extension of the present agreement, and there were some grounds for this as far as the EEC was concerned in regard to its common agricultural policy on beet sugar. Also there was the possibility of problems relating to Britain's entry into the EEC as that affected developing countries and Australia. Consequently the EEC argued that there should be an extension of the Agreement. However, every other major importing and exporting country - including Australia, Cuba and Brazil as exporters and Japan and Canada as importers - were 100 per cent behind a new agreement. Although the EEC is not a member of the International Sugar Agreement I can say that it has acted very responsibly in the last 5 years. It has not done anything such as dumping of export sugar or anything detrimental to the world price of sugar.

It is our hope and the hope of most nations in the world participating at the forthcoming talks that the European Economic Community will join the International Sugar Agree ment. I have no need to inform the honourable members that sugar is the most dynamic of all commodities in international trade because of world politics. Honourable members opposite who took part in negotiations know full well the difficulties with respect to the agreement brought about through the existence of the great trading blocs such as Comecon - the Soviet bloc - the European Economic Community, and the strength of nations such as Japan and the United StatesEach of these nations participates in talks as a member or an observer. I can assure the honourable member that it is the express policy of the Government to do anything possible to negotiate a successful international sugar agreement at the forthcoming talks.

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