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Tuesday, 11 May 1993
Page: 373

Senator LOOSLEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the recent progress that has been made towards multi-party elections in South Africa. What is the Government's attitude to the lifting of those economic sanctions that are still in place against South Africa? What proposals has the Australian Government developed to assist Australian business firms to invest in and to trade with South Africa once those sanctions are no longer in place?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Australian Government remains wholly committed to the phased lifting of sanctions against South Africa, as was agreed by Commonwealth heads of government in Harare in 1991, whereby trade and investment sanctions will be lifted as soon as agreement is reached on appropriate transitional mechanisms, and financial sanctions will be lifted once the recommendation is made by agreement at the multi-party forum or by an interim government. We will certainly move very quickly to lift sanctions as soon as sufficient progress is made in negotiations to enable those conditions to be met.

  I am presently actively considering the questions of timing involved here with my Commonwealth ministerial colleagues. It is not at all impossible, on present rates of progress, that sanctions could be lifted sometime within the next few weeks, and indeed on all fronts simultaneously so far as trade, investment and financial sanctions are concerned.

  It is the case that progress in negotiations in recent weeks has been very heartening, notwithstanding the obvious traumas associated with the assassination of Chris Hani; the death of the ANC's enormously respected former President in exile, Oliver Tambo; and also the continuing problems of reconciling the Inkatha Freedom Party and other more marginal organisations to principles that are essentially now agreed by the ANC and the South African Government. Notwithstanding those problems and difficulties, the process is moving forward.

  The Government has recognised the need for Australian business to be ready to make the most of trade and investment possibilities in South Africa when sanctions are lifted. In June last year I advised the Australian-Southern African Business Council and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the Government had no objection to individual business representatives or business missions visiting South Africa on an exploratory basis to assess prospects for future involvement there.

  While it will not be possible to provide active government assistance until sanctions are lifted, we already provide business inquirers with factual economic and other relevant information to help them assess future possibilities in South Africa. For example, my department will shortly be publishing a country economic brief on South Africa for the information of the Australian business community. Our embassy in South Africa can also provide similar background information.

  Senator Cook recently gave approval for Austrade's trade commissioner in Nairobi to undertake a program of short-term visits to South Africa from May this year until sanctions are lifted, the purpose being to maintain a watching brief on developments in the South African economy to assess their implications for Austrade's support strategies for Australian firms and organisations once Austrade is in a position to again offer facilitation services. The first such visit will take place from 14 to 25 May.

  Austrade has developed a contingency strategy for implementation when sanctions are lifted. It comprises the development of a market report on South Africa, the likely opening of an office in Johannesburg, a seminar program, a trade mission and a hotline to answer inquiries.