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Vaile cites positive outcomes of US visit.

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Media Release

Friday, 2 May 2003 - MVT34/2003

Vaile cites positive outcomes of US visit

An Australian business delegation led by Trade Minister Mark Vaile ended its four-day visit to the United States today after meeting key administration and business figures to discuss Iraqi rehabilitation projects.

Mr Vaile said the visit had succeeded in highlighting relevant Australian expertise at a time when US companies were moving quickly to settle sub-contracting arrangements on rehabilitation work already commissioned and funded by the US Government. Several US companies had praised Australia for being the first country to send a joint government-business delegation to discuss areas of co-operation in the reconstruction of Iraq.

The business delegation Mr Vaile brought to the US included 10 companies selected to represent a spread of Australian expertise in infrastructure, power, water and sanitation, oil and gas, education and services. They are representative of many other Australian companies well-placed to assist in getting Iraq back on its feet.

Mr Vaile said that in all his meetings Australia’s contribution to the Coalition of the Willing had been warmly praised. Australia’s commitment to playing its part in helping rehabilitate Iraq was also appreciated.

“This visit has given Australian companies a good sense of how they can compete for sub-contracting work. It has also sharpened knowledge among US companies of what Australian firms have to offer,” Mr Vaile said. “Australia’s standing in the US is clearly an asset but any sub-contracted work will need to be won in open competition. I am confident that Australian companies will prove very competitive.”

The Minister also met US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, discussing a range of issues including the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, the current round of world trade talks and the involvement of Australia and the US in jointly heading the rehabilitation of Iraq’s agriculture sector. Mr Vaile stressed the importance of encouraging Iraq to develop an agriculture sector based on open markets.

In Houston and in Los Angeles, Mr Vaile hosted functions with members of local business communities engaged in trade and investment with Australia.

“During our visit to the US, Australia’s role as a member of the Coalition of the Willing was praised and appreciated at every level. But we also received overwhelming support for an FTA with the US,” Mr Vaile said. “We were

consistently urged to complete the negotiations as quickly as possible and there was a wide recognition that an FTA would and should become a key element of our bilateral relationship.”

Contact: Matthew Doman (02) 6277 7420, Lyndall Sachs (Department) 02 6261 1555