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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2171

Madam SPEAKER —I call the Leader of the National Party.

Honourable members-Hear, hear!

Mr SINCLAIR —It is nice to know that honourable members welcome me. I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Given the belligerent attitude of many Americans to trade difficulties with Japan, which is reflected by the sanctions imposed by President Reagan on Japanese semi-conductors and mechanical goods, the Prime Minister would be aware of the significance of this week's meetings between President Reagan and Prime Minister Nakasone. Has his Government brought to the attention of the United States Administration at the highest level Australia's serious concern that any sweetheart deal giving preferred market access to United States exports into Japan would be to the serious detriment of Australian exporters, especially Australian beef producers? In order to guarantee a full understanding in Japan and the United States of Australia's serious concerns at the implications of the present trade war, including continuing problems with the European Community, will the Prime Minister personally take up these issues by seeking a meeting with President Reagan and Prime Minister Nakasone before the Venice economic summit in June?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the leader of whatever it is for his question. I say that with no disrespect to the Leader of the National Party of Australia because it is an important question and I thank him for it. I assure him that the issues he has raised are occupying the constant attention of the Government through the relevant Ministers and me. I, the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Trade have taken every opportunity to convey our concern to the President. I think the right honourable gentleman would acknowledge and agree that we have augmented the facilities at our embassy in Washington in regard to the whole continuing question of the attitude of the United States to trade.

We recognise-this is involved in the right honourable gentleman's question-the very significant implications of the growing dispute between the United States and Japan. There are two aspects to it. Firstly, the possible resolution of the dispute between those countries, as the right honourable gentleman implied, could be at our expense. The growing corruption of international trade, for which both countries are responsible together with the Europeans, is causing our farmers particular problems. We are aware of that and are making representations. But, as the right honourable gentleman suggested, another aspect of the problem is that if the United States attempts to resolve its problems by sweetheart deals, which may have the effect of closing to us our legitimate opportunities in Japan in particular, we will pay another price. So we share the very proper concerns of the right honourable gentleman. We will continue to put our concerns strongly. The United States should not assume, upon the depths of the friendship and commitment that exist between Australia and the United States, that we will just cop sweetly any action that it takes in pursuit of its perceived interests in its dealings with Japan.

The right honourable gentleman asked whether I would seek a personal meeting with the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Japan before the Venice meeting. I will think about that but I do not think it will be necessary. However, I give the right honourable gentleman a firm undertaking that we will constantly put the legitimate concerns of Australia to both of those gentlemen as we have to this point so that when they go to the Venice meeting they will be in no doubt at all as to their responsibility both one to the other in the settlement of any dispute between them and also-this is very important-their overwhelming responsibility to play a strong and constructive role not only at Venice but also in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade round and the fast track mechanisms that are being addressed. They have an overwhelming reponsibility to understand that it is not only against the interests of Australia that this corruption in international trade should continue but, even if they look at it only in terms of their own self-interest, in the end the United States, Japan and the citizens of those countries will pay a very high price because they cannot continue indefinitely to presume that they have a limitless exchequer into which they can dip to meet, in a short-sighted way, the particular pressures which they perceive to have upon them.

I conclude by, again, quite sincerely thanking the right honourable gentleman for his question and assuring him that this Government will continue to put the highest pressure we possibly can in those representations, which I am pleased to know, go with the full backing of the Party which he leads.