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Transcript of press conference: Cairns, Qld: 4 July 2007: preview of meeting of APEC Ministers responsible for trade.



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The Hon Warren Truss MP MINISTER FOR TRADE

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE NATIONALS

Transcript E and OE

4 July 2007

Preview of Meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Cairns, Queensland

Press Conference Subject: World Trade Talks

WARREN TRUSS: Well, thank you very much and welcome everybody to Cairns. As a Queenslander, I’m delighted to welcome Trade Ministers from throughout the APEC region to this city, to my home state, for this key meeting in the lead up to the Leaders’ Summit to

be held in Sydney in September.

This will be an opportunity to prepare some of the chief agenda items for the meeting in Sydney. We’ll be talking around a range of trade-related matters and, in particular, looking at the failure of the G4 meeting and how we might look forward to achieving a successful outcome to the Doha Round.

This APEC group includes a broad cross-section of members of the WTO, it includes developed and developing countries, it includes countries with a keen interest in agriculture, others who have a strong manufacturing focus. It includes countries with high-levels of protection and others with relatively free and open economies.

So, if we are able to reach a degree of consensus around this table, well, that will provide some leadership in the Doha Round itself. I don’t take away from the difficulty that the Doha Round faces. There are still significant gaps between those who want to protect their agricultural sectors and those who are keen to see freer and fairer trade but we do need another way forward. The G4, G6 and similar processes based about small, negotiating groups have not succeeded. The focus is now on what can be done in Geneva, especially since the release of the negotiating chairs’ text which is expected over the next couple of weeks.

That clearly is the next big event on the Doha negotiating agenda and, hopefully, some consensus may develop around those texts which can take those discussions forward.

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The meeting over the next few days will deal with - though not only - the broader trading agenda but also some of our bilateral issues. From Australia’s perspective, 70 per cent of our total trade is with our fellow members of the APEC Group and so this is a particularly significant gathering.

We’ll be talking about ways in which APEC can help break down barriers in trade between ourselves - between the members of the APEC Group - what we can do specifically behind the border. APEC has made significant advances in that regard and I hope that this meeting will commit to a further action plan to reduce barriers to trade between member countries of APEC. That agenda is likely to consider things like a single window for importers and exporters, a customs singles window, an expansion of the APEC Business Travel Card scheme, attempts to harmonise - where we can - food and safety standards, IP protection, also data privacy and a range of issues of that nature and, in particular, to examine how we might be able to work constructively together to find ways to reduce the costs of doing trade in our region.

We’ll also be dealing with other issues likely to be under consideration in the context of the APEC agenda. It’s a key issue opportunity for Trade Ministers for some of the leading nations of the world and I’m sure that the meeting will be constructive.

Could I make one final domestic point and that is to comment on the trade figures for Australia that were released today. We’re delighted that the exports have reached a new record in the month of May. Our exports reached $18.7 billion and that involved significant increases in most sectors. So, it was a pleasing month and did result in a further reduction in our trading deficit and I hope that we can keep on in this vein and hopefully move closer to balanced trading figures for our country.

JOURNALIST: To what extent do you think this meeting can influence the context of the texts that are being developed in Geneva at this time? To what extent do you think this meeting can influence this ambition contained in those texts?

WARREN TRUSS: Well, clearly the work on developing the text is being done in another place and some of it is quite advanced. But I think a signal from this meeting that we are still looking for ambitious outcomes would be important and hopefully would influence those drafting the text not to lower their ambition. It is easy, in the context of the failed G4 meeting, to say, well, perhaps we should aim lower, we should look for lowest common denominator solutions but if we end up with something that expects nothing of almost everyone then, in reality, we’ll get few benefits. We want a deal that’s a good deal that does open up genuine, commercially-usable trading opportunities. I’d encourage the chairs of the negotiating text not to lower their ambition but to put forward proposals at the top end of the level of ambition so that the member countries can be challenged to look for a

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constructive and genuinely-forming outcome.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the idea which was flagged by Minister [inaudible] - though not recommended but just flagged - of a smaller group of leading nations within APEC embarking on an official path-finding process or an unofficial path-finding process in terms of promoting an area-wide Free Trade Agreement?

WARREN TRUSS: Our priority remains the Doha Round. We want to see a good outcome for the multilateral system involving all the countries of the world. If, per chance, those negotiations fail, there will be increased activity at the bilateral level as countries look to who they might be able to develop trading relationships with to further their own ambitions of freer and fairer trade. There are a lot of countries that genuinely and strongly believe that their future is heavily dependent on their ability to trade freely around the world and so there’ll be increased bilateral activity in the event of us not being able to reach a satisfactory outcome to the Doha Round. But there’ll also be increased activity towards developing regional Free Trade Agreements. There are already quite a number of

those around and Australia is participating with New Zealand at the present time in negotiations with ASEAN. There has been talk of a range of other regional Free Trade Agreements such as the East Asia Summit and you’ll be aware that this meeting and the Leaders’ Meeting will be receiving a preliminary report on what can be done to better integrate the economies of APEC. Amongst the issues that will be dealt with in that kind of context is obviously the prospect of some kind of a local Free Trade Agreement. I think there’ll be a lot more of those kind of activities and I think discussions about linking regional Free Trade Agreements so that they have a broader cover. I am convinced that even if the Doha Round were to fail, there will still be vigour and enthusiasm to achieve freer and fairer trade.

JOURNALIST: To what extent do you think India has cruelled its chances of being admitted into APEC by what happened in Pottsdam?

WARREN TRUSS: Well, the decision about whether or not new members should be invited to join APEC will be made on a broader range of considerations than just their attitude to trade issues. Certainly, there’s disappointment that the G4 failed. India was a part of that process. There have been a number of comments made by the four partners about what the others didn’t do to achieve a result and I’ve got no doubt that the relationship between the G4 has been damaged as a result of that experience. So, that was certainly not a constructive period and it didn’t make too many new friends. But the decision about a new membership list of APEC will be made on other criteria in addition to the contribution that country may be able to make to our trading agenda.

ENDS Contact: Departmental - (02) 6261 1555

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