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Prime Minister admits FTA strategy is fatally flawed.

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Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600  Phone (02) 6277 4363  Fax (02) 6277 8596 Available at

Thursday, 30 May 2002


The Howard Government has finally conceded that its handling of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations is so bad that it needs a completely new approach.

With the Prime Minister of Thailand in Canberra today, Prime Minister Howard announced a new round of trade negotiations with Thailand - but no FTA. Instead, Howard referred variously to a “Closer Economic Relationship” and an “FTA-Plus” with Thailand.

In fact, this will be much less than an FTA.

Prime Minister Howard made it clear that Australian negotiators will be allowed to seek sector-by-sector outcomes, and deliver results as they are achieved. Australia will therefore revert to its previous practice of identifying individual barriers to trade, and knocking them out of the way.

This is an admission from the Howard Government that its approach to FTAs is flawed - and that only results count.

Labor strongly supports improving trade, economic and people-to-people relations between Australia and Thailand, particularly in the education sector and using working holiday visas.

Labor understands that FTAs can be good economic instruments. But they must be well-targeted, consistent with the WTO and focused on outcomes. An FTA must be judged by what it delivers for the Australian community.

So far, the Howard Government’s FTA adventurism has delivered nothing. Negotiations with Singapore, Japan, the US and Thailand have yielded a cumulative total of 63 months of talk - and nothing else.

More Information: Amanda Walsh on (02) 6277 4363 or 0411 734 569.

Shadow M inister for Trade and Tourism Federal M em ber for Cunningham

H o n D r S te p h e n M a rtin M P