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Labor puts Australia-India relationship on the line.

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

Labor has a lot of ground to make up in bilateral negotiations with India after its clumsy start to continuing one of Australia's most important trade relationships, Shadow Minister for Trade Ian Macfarlane said today.

''When Trade Minister Simon Crean comes to the negotiating table to discuss Australia's relationship with India, he carries the undeniable baggage of Labor's bungled approach so far.

''The Rudd Labor Government's interaction with India has been characterised by a litany of clumsy decisions - starting with its illogical and unsustainable move to overturn the Howard Government's agreement to export uranium to India, solely for use in generating clean power.

''Add to that the Rudd Labor Government's decision to pull out of the quadrilateral dialogue with the US, Japan and India as well as its overall chaotic approach to trade and it's clear that the Government is sending a damaging message that could jeopardise Australia's trade relationship with India.

''The previous Coalition Government identified India as a key partner for a free trade agreement and in August last year committed to a joint feasibility study on the value of a bilateral agreement.

''The onus is now on Trade Minister Simon Crean to build on the groundwork laid out by the Coalition Government - an end unlikely to be achieved unless Labor is prepared to overturn the illogical decision to support new uranium sales to China and Russia, but not India.

''Mr Crean cannot expect one of Australia's biggest export markets to overlook this glaring inconsistency which is not only an affront to India's integrity but also flies in the face of Labor's claims to be committed to clean energy.

''If the Rudd Labor Government expects to be taken seriously in future negotiations with India and work to secure benefits for Australian exporters and traders it will have to dump its hypocritical attitude and prove it's prepared to build on, not tear apart, Australia's international trade relationships.''