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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) .- - I am alarmed to hear it said that notice has been received from Belgium of its; intention to terminate its trade agreement with Australia. No such notice hasbeen given. We are still operating under the agreement, which, of course, can be terminated by the giving of notice by either party to it.

Senator Gibson - I was led to believe that such notice had been given.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have informed the honorable senator as to the advice received by me from official quarters.. I do. not believe that there is any probability of such notice being given. The reason why the Government "departed f rom the Tariff Board's decision was that it desired to have an extra 10 per cent. margin to work upon in negotiating for trade treaties: Turning to the amendment under consideration. . the British preferential rate is 15 per cent. The lowest duty we could give to a foreign country would be 30 per cent., because wo have to preserve a margin of 15 per cent. in favour of Great Britain. The duty under the general tariff is 60 per cent.

Senator Gibson - Would a reduction of 10 per cent. have any value in negotiating a trade treaty?

Senator Guthrie - We are giving away our bluff.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not think so. If we commenced to negotiate on a duty of 50 per cent., those with whom we are dealing, who are as keen as we are, will seek a further reduction, and ultimately the duty might have to be reduced to 35 per cent.

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