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Wednesday, 24 February 1971

Senator YOUNG - I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. I ask the Minister whether he has seen the report that a United Nations conference has reached agreement on a new wheat trade convention but that the convention does not cover prices. Can the Minister say what effect this will have on Australia's wheat selling capacity, particularly in view of competition from countries such as Canada and the United States of America? Further, will this mean that countries within the European Economic Community will be able to sell or to dump their heavily subsidised surplus production on overseas markets?

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - The Department of Trade and Industry has supplied me with some information. Negotiations have just been completed for a new international wheat agreement to come into effect on 1st July 1971. The agreement comprises a wheat trade convention and a food aid convention. Apparently, it was not possible to reach acceptable arrangements on price levels in the wheat trade convention. Nevertheless, provision is contained in the new agreement for continuous reviews of price and market trends as the International Wheat Council has been maintained as an effective forum for co-operation and consultation between exporters and importers.

With respect to prices, it will be appreciated that the pricing provisions of the International Grains Arrangement have not been operative for some time. Yet world prices are currently around the minimum level specified in that agreement, and Australia's wheat exports last year were at near record level. There was widespread support at the conference for international orderly marketing of wheat by all wheat exporters including the United States of America, Canada and the European Economic Community. The new agreement also leaves open the possibility of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics joining that agreement. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is an important wheat country which was not in the International Grains Arrangement. Finally, it is reasonable to believe that with continuing consultation and co-operation it is unlikely that a responsible member of the Agreement will dump in overseas markets.

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