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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1476

Mr LAMB —Can the Minister for Trade report on any progress at the Trade Ministers meeting at Taupo on the question of agricultural reforms?

Mr DAWKINS —I thank the honourable member for his question. Whilst one hesitates to be too optimistic about the circumstances confronting at least some sections of the inter- national agricultural market, I think we were able at the meeting over the last couple of days to achieve important progress in an international addressing of issues involving agricultural trade. There was a clear acceptance, probably for the first time, by all the countries participating that there was an urgency attaching not only to the question of agricultural trade reform, but also to other areas of trade reform which have been bedevilling the world and certainly savaging the economies of some of the smaller countries around the world.

We have always recognised that action will be forthcoming only when the political will exists, particularly amongst the major developed countries. What was refreshing is that, amongst those countries represented, there was a shared commitment to get on with the task of negotiating a better arrangement internationally. Indeed, when the Uruguay round was launched, people were talking in terms of an outcome in four to five years. It is now not inconceivable that we could see some progress on some of the issues as early as late next year. There is a very important reason why we should be trying to work towards that timetable, not least of all because of the circumstance which exists within the United States of America and perhaps the uncertainty of the United States position beyond the end of next year.

We were also encouraged by the presentation of an initiative on the part of the Canadians. Their initiative follows very closely on the heels of, and conforms in almost every respect to, the initiative of our own Prime Minister made in Switzerland earlier this year. There is no question that the Prime Minister's initiative, now being followed by the Canadian initiative, indicates that greater attention is being placed on the issues which Australia itself has identified. The Canadian Minister, Miss Pat Carney, will be in Australia in the next couple of days. We will take the opportunity of her visit to further co-ordinate our activities. It is important to note that Australia has played a very constructive role--

Mr Tim Fischer —And Thailand.

Mr DAWKINS —As I was going to say, through its leadership of the Cairns group of countries. The Cairns group of 14 countries played a very significant role. Australia has been proud to be the leader of that group, in bringing these issues to the forefront of international attention. We will continue our efforts through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in every other forum, and in our bilateral discussions, to ensure that the momentum that has been created is maintained.