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Wednesday, 15 December 1993
Page: 4674

Senator TEAGUE —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does the minister accept Mickey Kantor's and Sir Leon Brittan's assessment today that the breakthrough has come and that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade will be concluded in the next 24 hours? I ask the minister: what significant difficulties does he feel still remain and, in particular, what remains to be won for Australia in the final hours of negotiations for our market access to Europe, North America and Japan?

Senator GARETH EVANS —We certainly do accept the assessment by Mickey Kantor and Leon Brittan that the US and Europe have concluded a deal which has cleared the way to finalise the round within the subsequent 24 hours. It has to be appreciated, as is implicit in Senator Teague's question, that the US-European union deal is not by itself the end of the story; other countries are still negotiating, and that includes us. Our efforts, which are still going on hour by hour, are aimed at improving our market access with a whole range of countries. We have until later today—in fact, until about 11 o'clock tonight Australian time—to achieve better deals on a variety of access issues. I do not think there is much utility at this stage in trying to define where we are at on each of those issues; in fact, in some small respects, it would perhaps be counterproductive to do so. All I can say is that intense negotiations are still under way.

  At around 4 o'clock this afternoon, the Prime Minister will be making a major announcement on the outcome so far for Australia. That will need to be supplemented tomorrow by a further announcement which he or I will make—or Senator Cook will make in Geneva—about what further has been able to be achieved. It is very much an active environment at the moment. Within the overall framework that has been set, there is still scope for a great many bilateral, multilateral or pluri-lateral add-on deals, and the effort is proceeding at the moment across the whole range of issues in which Australia has an interest.