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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 2153

Mr O'KEEFE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question without notice is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. In view of the fact that the long awaited Australian-Japanese beef agreement is likely to diminish our share of the Japanese beef market, what action is the Minister taking to ensure that we lose no further share of the Korean market? Is the Minister concerned that the abandoning of uranium contracts with France might lead to the European Economic Community taking retaliatory action by dumping beef into our Asian markets?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I acknowledge what the honourable gentleman has said. On a personal note, may I offer my congratulations to him for his service to the country as a member of parliament. The question is a very important one. Firstly , there is no sense of any retaliation from France or the European Economic Community because of contractual arrangements that have been deferred in respect of sales of uranium. But there are other problems, which the honourable gentleman would readily identify because of excessive production of beef in the EEC as a result of subsidisation. The EEC is looking for markets, and it could well be looking for markets in South East Asia and particularly Korea. As a matter of fact, the EEC has penetrated the Canadian market much more than we would hope. I made representations to Mr Hafekamp, the EEC's external relations representative, and he gave me an assurance that the EEC would not seek to bring its beef into the South East Asian market. But we are very concerned about the matter. Strong representations have been made to the EEC which, at this stage, has given an assurance that it will not be exploring that market.

In respect of the Korean market, it is acknowledged that sales of beef this year have been well down, but that is due to domestic arrangements as a result of the Government in Korea emphasising that it wanted to see more benefits given to its own domestic production of poultry. There has been a change in that direction. In recent weeks there has been a revival of the Korean interest in Australian beef and a substantial contract has been let. I assure the honourable member that these matters are of grave concern to the Australian beef industry.

When people talk about free trade and fair trade, we are always anxious to ensure that they talk about them in a complete context. The great difficulty is that agricultural products have been excluded from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That is one of the basic problems. The EEC has been a law unto itself in respect of its agricultural production. It has destabilised a number of other markets in the agricultural area because of surplus production. Until such time as we can get the EEC and other nations in the world to bring agricultural products under GATT there will always be this difficulty. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I assure him that the Government is doing everything possible to ensure that we maintain our market share of beef exports.