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John Howard's - 'Unimpressive' trade performance.

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KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security Acting Shadow Trade Minister

9 June 2005


In today’s speech outlining his Government’s trade policies Prime Minister Howard said the “outcome achieved is very impressive indeed”.

If Mr Howard considers Australia’s current trade performance is impressive, I would hate to see an unimpressive performance.

The Prime Minister’s “impressive” trade performance has produced:

• Australia’s largest ever current account deficit - $15.4 billion for the March quarter more than 7.0 per cent of GDP;

• A record 42 monthly trade deficits in a row;

• Four years in a row of net exports detracting from economic growth;

• A flat lining of export volumes since 2001;

• An export growth rate of only 5.3 per cent, less than half of Labor’s export growth rate of 10.8 per cent;

• The performance on manufactured exports is even weaker - 3.7 per cent under the Howard Government compared to 13.7 per cent achieved by Labor;

• If exports continued to grow at the rate achieved by Labor, Australia would have recorded a trade surplus last year of $12 billion rather than a deficit of $26 billion - that is a $38 billion turnaround.

• A record foreign debt of $425 billion - in the Government’s terms that is a record $21,056 for every man woman and child in Australia.

The Prime Minister has achieved this unimpressive trade performance despite strong world growth, China’s voracious appetite for our resources, and our best terms of trade and commodity prices in 50 years.

Mr Howard’s address today provided an opportunity to change direction and introduce a trade policy that genuinely delivers for Australia. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister once again missed that opportunity. Ends. 9 June 2005 Contact: David Garner 0400 412 404