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Tuesday, 26 September 1972
Page: 1138


Senator BYRNE (QUEENSLAND) - 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry or the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I preface my question by adverting to the growing importance of Asian trade to Australia and the consequences of the emergence of the European Economic Community lo Australian and New Zealand trade. I ask the appropriate Minister: Are any steps being taken in discussions with New Zealand to extend the present New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement to the development of a customs union, which would result in a common external tariff policy for both dominions?


Senator COTTON - Mr President,I think it is a proper question for me to answer. I am unable to reply directly to the general basis of the honourable senator's question. I can say in the broad that NAFTA was designed to make available to both countries the market of both countries - in effect, to join together the populations of Australia and New Zealand and make a larger market. It was designed to exploit a common opportunity as between one country and another. It has been recognised also that in some ways the 2 countries are complementary. In some ways they both do the same things; so there are certain areas where it would be difficult for there to be multilateral exchange.

Therefore I think the prospect of a customs union was thought to be unlikely in the beginning. There are certain areas where one could harm the other. One could contemplate the situation where the free access of dairy products from New Zealand to Australia would not be likely to fill the hearts of Australian dairymen with much joy. Equally there are areas in New Zealand where full access by Australian manufacturers could destroy secondary industry in New Zealand. 1 think the idea of trying to get the processs of joining together as far along the road as possible is sensible, having regard to the availability of resources in both countries, the total market we have for export and the opportunities we have for co-operation with each other without harm to each other. 1 cannot go beyond that. I will seek further information for the honourable senator.







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