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Would Australia's real trade negotiator please stand up.

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Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600  Phone (02) 6277 4363  Fax (02) 6277 8596

Friday, 19 April 2002


The Australian Trade Minister’s failure to attend key negotiations in Europe is an appalling reflection on Government strategy and priorities.

The Prime Minister has sent a delegation of three of his ministers to Brussels, for top-level trade talks on increasing Australian wine and education exports to the European market.

Those three ministers are Alexander Downer, John Anderson and Phillip Ruddock. One of these men is masquerading as the Australian Minister for Trade.

Mr Vaile’s counterpart in Europe, Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, is entitled to be confused. With Mr Vaile nowhere to be seen in Brussels, Commissioner Lamy might also wonder just how serious Australia is about building up its trade ties with Europe.

As a single market of 377 million people, the EU is Australia’s number one trading partner in goods and services. The EU might also hold the key to a good outcome for Australia in the new round of WTO global trade talks. The Europeans are more important than ever to Australia’s trade prospects.

If it’s a question of performance, Labor would be the first to concede that Mr Vaile’s form has been far from sparkling recently - on steel, free trade agreements with Singapore and Japan, or building up high-value exports.

But if trade is on the agenda, and if the dialogue partners are as important as the EU, then the Australian Trade Minister has to be at the table.

The Australian business community should ask, as we do: would Australia’s real trade negotiator please stand up?

More Information: Amanda Walsh on (02) 6277 4363 or 0411 734 569.

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Shadow M inister for Trade and Tourism Federal M em ber for Cunningham

H o n D r S te p h e n M a rtin M P