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Crean: the greate pretender on trade.

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The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP Shadow Minister for Trade (to 22 September 2008)

The Rudd Labor Government continues to show it has no trade policy of its own, today taking credit for the realisation of the Australia-Chile Free Trade Agreement, which was initiated and negotiated during the term of the previous Coalition Government, Shadow Minister for Trade Ian Macfarlane said.

''Since taking office Trade Minister Simon Crean has been downplaying bilateral agreements as the poor cousin of multilateral agreements,'' Mr Macfarlane said.

''But today, with a straight-face, Mr Crean claimed credit for the completion of a process started in 2006 by the previous Government.

''While I congratulate Mr Crean on his belated recognition of the value of bilateral free trade agreements, he must now put some action behind his words and work to develop further opportunities for Australian exporters and businesses.

''The Coalition Government recognised the fertile ground for new opportunities for Australian exporters, which is why it began the negotiating process with Australia's third-largest trading partner in Latin America.

''The agreement announced today is a vindication of the hard work undertaken by the previous Government.

''While Mr Crean may choose to take credit for an agreement largely completed by his predecessors, the time for pretending is over.

''The record shows that the Australian Labor Party has never negotiated a bilateral free trade agreement of its own.

''And despite what the Rudd Labor Government may claim that record remains intact.

''The Rudd Labor Government cannot continue to ride on the coattails of the previous Coalition Government or keep running from the real business of government.

''But so far, the signs of what else the Labor Government has to offer exporters are disheartening.

''The Rudd Labor Government's only progress so far on negotiating further free trade agreements has been to slash the negotiating budgets for the Australia-China and Australia-Japan FTAs.

''All the Rudd Labor Government has offered are empty words and reviews.

''Mr Crean needs to understand that rhetoric and reports do not represent a robust trade policy.

''Time is ticking away and the patience of Australian exporters and businesses is running thin.''