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Tuesday, 22 August 1972
Page: 220

Senator O'BYRNE (TASMANIA) - My question is addressed to Senator Cotton in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. What is the Government's reaction to the assurance given by the People's Republic of China to the Canadian Government that Canada can count on China as a long term customer for wheat? Is it a fact that Chinese wheat purchases from Canada have been worth about $840m in the past decade? If so, how does this huge trade figure compare with the amount that the Australian Government's refusal to recognise China has cost the wheat farmers of Australia?

Senator COTTON - I shall need to get more information on the actual sums of money as I do not have that information with me. An assurance similar to that mentioned by the honourable senator was given in July last year by China to Canada. They do not represent a significant departure from established practice on the part of China. For the past few years China has negotiated first with Canada and later with other suppliers to which it turned for additional requirements. The assurance given to Canada does not mean a commitment to buy; the operative words are 'first opportunity'. However, as in the past, Canada can be expected to supply on terms acceptable to the Chinese because it has, I understand, a particularly preferred hard wheat. In the meantime the Australian Wheat Board has maintained its firm and friendly commercial relations with Chinese wheat buyers. A delegation visited China late last year. The world wheat trade at present is quite buoyant. Australia's carry-over of stocks at the end of the current selling season will be very substantially reduced.

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