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Wednesday, 21 August 1985
Page: 110

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(5.14) —Unless somebody else has an interest in these matters, I seek leave to move a motion relating to papers 5, 8 and 9, all of which relate to developing country preferences for different manufactured items.

Leave granted.

Senator CHANEY —I move:

That the Senate take note of papers 5, 8 and 9.

I draw the Senate's attention to the fact that although these reports deal with a relatively confined area of manufacture, included as an appendix to each report is a government statement regarding developing country preferences. That statement is in common form in each agreement. The statement in part points out:

The system permits specific products imported from developing countries to enter Australia at rates of duty below the relevant General Tariff rates providing that such imports do not, or would not, cause or threaten injury to Australian industry.

A little later the statement says:

. . . preferences are not accorded, or if accorded will be modified or withdrawn, in circumstances where injury or threat of injury to Australian industry arises.

Anyone who has any contact with Australian manufacturers will know of the oft-expressed concern about the operation of developing country preferences, as is evident from our recent experience where under the Government's steel industry plan there was some modification of preference when certain items of steel imports got beyond a certain proportional level of Australian use. Significant trade problems can arise when preferences are withdrawn. Honourable senators will probably recall the concern expressed by the Republic of Korea about Australia's change to an item or two under the steel plan.

The reason for drawing the Senate's attention to this paper is that it is a matter of concern to a substantial group of manufacturers in Australia. Apparently, the Government has found it difficult to come to grips with the principles that should be involved. The Government has had under review for a considerable time the question of developing country preferences and, when asked, Senator Button advises that consideration is continuing. I understand that he has commissioned an independent study on the subject. In any event, it is a matter which could warrant more detailed debate at some time. Therefore, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.