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Vaile should explain 24% dive in manufactured exports.

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CRAIG EMERSON Member for Rankin


23 May 2003

Vaile should explain 24% dive in manufactured exports

In his media briefing today Trade Minister Mark Vaile should explain Australia’s appalling trade performance as confirmed in official statistics just released.

The March quarter 2003 trade figures released by the ABS today reveal a massive 10 per cent slump in merchandise exports.1 Manufactured exports fell an astonishing 24 per cent, which cannot be explained by the drought or SARS (though the Government will try).

And if the Government’s other favoured excuse - a global economic slowdown - were responsible, how does the Minister explain Australia’s falling market share in our main export markets? While Australia’s exports continue to fall, imports by Asia grew six per cent last year, by the EU three per cent and by the US two per cent.

The Government’s trade policy is to pray for rain and hope a US-Australia free trade agreement will deliver a bonanza for Australian exporters.

But as leading trade analyst Ross Garnaut recently pointed out in his submission to a Senate inquiry into the FTA, to get the mythical $A4 billion benefit for Australia claimed by the Government, the Government would need to sell the rest of Telstra, allow Australia’s big four banks to merge and drop all its forms of protection for manufacturing. And the US would need to abolish all its import restrictions on Australian agriculture.

In today’s Australian, Michael Costello warns of the spectre of East Asia forming its own discriminatory trading bloc that excluded Australia, in response to the US-Australia FTA and other deals under negotiation.

Garnaut and Costello are right. Labor says put Doha first.

Contact: Craig Emerson 0418 781 386

1 March quarter 2003 compared with December quarter 2002.