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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5207

Senator MAGUIRE —I present the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade on the implications of United States policies for Australia, together with the transcript of evidence.

  Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator MAGUIRE —Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report and to have my tabling statement incorporated in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

Senator MAGUIRE —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the report.

  The statement read as follows


On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade I have pleasure in presenting the Committee's Report on the Implications of United States Policies for Australia together with the transcript of evidence. It provides, I believe, a very timely assessment of the impact that the election of a new President and a very substantial turnover in representatives in the United States Congress, is likely to have on Australia.

The inquiry itself has been conducted in a very short time frame. The Senate referred the matter to the Committee on 18 September. Altogether 31 submissions were received. Public hearings were held in the run-up to the U.S. elections.

The evidence canvassed issues of major importance to Australia, both with regard to the policy debates and developments in the United States on economic matters and on the question of security in the Asia-Pacific region.

In tabling the Report, I would like to draw attention to the key conclusions in the report:

First, although there is a widespread expectation of a considerable element of continuity in American policy towards Australia, it would be foolish to underestimate the scope for important, and in many ways unpredictable, change that may confront both Australian and American policy makers during the term of the new President.

Second, the Committee considered that American interest in and understanding of Australia's interests and perspective, cannot be taken for granted, but has to be energetically fostered and encouraged.

It will be a major task for Australia to ensure that the President and his advisers are as well informed of Australia's perspective on issues that matter to Australia as they can be.

President Clinton will be the first in decades not to have had wartime links with the Pacific.

It will also be a major task to ensure that other key players in the United States body politic, players such as Congress, professional and business groups, the media, organised labour, academics, think-tanks and other special interest groups are fully informed of the impact of United States actions on Australia.

There have been tensions in the Australia-United States trade relationship. There is little expectation that these tensions will be resolved in the short term.

Notwithstanding some improvement in the recent past in the prospects of concluding the Uruguay Round of the GATT negotiations, Australia will need to maintain its efforts to improve its bilateral access to United States markets and limit the damage being caused to Australian producers by United States subsidies in third markets.

The Committee has recommended that there be greater emphasis in identifying and working with potential allies within the United States, to protect Australian trade interests.

As the inquiry progressed it also became evident that a factor of utmost importance to Australia is the maintenance of sound United States economic and security links with the Asia Pacific region as a whole.

With one third of its trade already directed to the Asia-Pacific, the United States self-interest in maintaining these links could appear self-evident. However, there is a notable body of opinion that the continued positive relationship of the United States with major countries, especially China, cannot be taken for granted. In the case of Japan, notwithstanding the mutual commitment to the US-Japan security treaty, great care in managing continuing trade tensions will need to be exercised.

Care must be taken to ensure that the consequences and impact of any unilateral United States trade measures on the countries of the region, and China and Japan in particular are fully evaluated. The wider regional effects that may flow from such actions must be fully understood. The Committee recommends that Australia play an active, positive role in ensuring that any dislocation of the current positive elements of the United States' security and economic relationships with Japan and China is avoided.

The Committee agreed with the views of expert witnesses that the APEC forum be developed further energetically. The Committee sees APEC both as a useful tool for further promoting the liberalisation of trade and as a means for reducing the risk of fracture in economic relationships across the Pacific.

The Committee concluded that United States recent and planned defence force reductions in the Asia-Pacific region are not a cause for concern. The evidence put to the Committee that the United States capability is in no way being reduced by changing defence force numbers and forward basing arrangements, was persuasive.

The Committee was, however, concerned that this may not be the view of all regional countries and concluded that Australia needs to be alert to opportunities for reducing regional concerns. One important consideration of course is the potential that such concerns could create for the competitive acquisition of arms by countries of the region. The Committee therefore urged that Australian policy makers review possible ways of drawing the United States into multilateral dialogue on security issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Committee concluded that the change in Administration in the United States creates both opportunities and challenges for Australia. It is the Committee's hope that its Report will be of assistance in identifying the opportunities and provide pointers to areas of endeavour that will be of benefit to Australia.

Senator MAGUIRE —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

  Leave granted; debate adjourned.