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Thursday, 13 May 1993
Page: 556

Senator BOSWELL —My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. I refer to today's announcement from the US that next year's sugar quotas will be cut, which will be a loss to Australia of some 10,000 to 11,000 tonnes, as the Minister has said, and a $3 million cut to the farmers. This amounts to a 90 per cent cut in Australia's quota over the last 10 years. I ask the Minister: how do these latest US quota cuts square with President Clinton's rhetoric on free trade and reduced protection? Can the US be trusted on promises it has given under the NAFTA agreement on sugar imports and on finalising the Uruguay Round when it pulls this sort of trade distortion trick just because it suits it?

Senator COOK —Senator Boswell has given some worthwhile statistics in the first part of his question and without dodging the second part, which I will very quickly come to, there are some other statistics that can be added. Before the introduction of wool quotas—I had better get on with sugar because I have just dealt with wool!

Senator Crane —There is a difference.

Senator COOK —There is a considerable difference. Thank you very much, Senator Crane, for helping me. Before the introduction of sugar quotas in the United States in 1982, Australia's exports of sugar to the US totalled 811,000 tonnes. As I said in an earlier answer today, if the new global limits are computed in the normal way in which we would expect them to be computed, the quota for Australia for the year 1993-94 would be down around 86,000 tonnes. In fact, as Senator Boswell says in his question, it is almost a 90 per cent reduction. Back in 1982 we had a 17 per cent share of the US import market. We now have an 8.3 per cent share of the US import market and a two per cent share of the sugar market in the US overall. So that is a dramatic reduction.

  Senator Boswell asks in his question what weight we should put on President Clinton's remarks about the completion of the Uruguay Round. The Government's view is that the best way of opening up the sugar market in the United States, and for that matter all the other markets in rural products, particularly beef, is to pursue the Uruguay Round settlement to the full this year. In order to ensure that we deliver as much weight behind the need for a full settlement this year, I have convened a Cairns Group meeting of free trading nations to be held in Thailand in June of this year prior to the meeting of the G7 so that the agricultural nations of the world can put as much effort behind their overtures to the G7 to conclude the Uruguay Round.

  We would like to see that multilateral trade negotiation round conclude in a strong way on the draft final act proposals, the Dunkel text, as amended by the Blair House accord which is the agricultural settlement. That is the best way of proceeding. President Clinton has made a number of remarks recently that that is his wish too, and certainly the observation Senator Boswell has made in his question is pertinent, that in the case of sugar that does not seem to be consistent. We believe that the best way of resolving this overall is through the Uruguay Round, but we will be making the representations I referred to in my earlier answer directly on a bilateral basis to try to turn around what appears to be a very damaging decision for Australia.