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Vaile to pursue wheat issue with new Iraqi trade minister.

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Media release

Friday 29 2005 - MVT34/2005

Vaile to Pursue Wheat Issue with New Iraqi Trade Minister

Trade Minister Mark Vaile welcomed the appointment today of Iraq's new Minister for Trade, HE Mr Abdul Basit Mawlud, in the Iraq Transitional Government, announced by Prime Minister Al-Ja'afari.

Mr Vaile said "I will be contacting Minister Mawlud as soon as possible to congratulate him on his appointment and to seek a quick resolution on issues relating to the Iraqi claims of contamination of Australian wheat exports.

"The delay in forming a new government has been frustrating in terms of resolving the Iraqi Interim Government's decision to reject Australian wheat consignments.

"I believe the formation of the new government provides us with an opportunity to move forward. The Australian Government has been pursuing the issue vigorously with the outgoing Iraqi Interim Government, in the interests of Australian wheat growers and Iraq's own food security needs.

"I look forward to working with Mr Mawlud to resolve the current dispute and further strengthen and diversify Australia's trade links with Iraq. Australia and Iraq share a long history of mutually beneficial trading relations, founded on the wheat trade.

"Given this issue relates to a commercial arrangement I encourage AWB Ltd to pursue all avenues with the Iraqi Grains board and senior Iraqi officials to also find a solution to this impasse," Mr Vaile said.

Mr Vaile said comments by the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries on this issue have been both ill informed and misguided. Since March 2004, Australia has exported no less than 1.5 million tonnes of wheat into Iraq. Australia remains the

dominant supplier into the Iraqi market.

"I will continue to do everything in my power to support Australian wheat farmers to maintain Iraq as a major market for Australian wheat, in order that Iraqi's can continue to have access to their wheat of choice," Mr Vaile said.

Mr Vaile also congratulated Dr Ali Abdul Amir Allawi, the former Trade Minister, on his appointment to Minister for Finance in the new cabinet.

"I met Dr Allawi during his visit to Australia in October 2003 and I look forward to working closely with the new economic team in Iraq," Mr Vaile said.

Contact: Mr Vaile's office 02 6277 7420