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Labor will deliver trade treaty with Europe.

Labor Will Deliver Trade Treaty With Europe


Peter Cook - Shadow Minister For Trade


Media Statement - 22 March 2000


Labor in Government will deliver the trade treaty that John Howard promised, Shadow Trade Minister, Senator Peter Cook said today.


Addressing the Australia-New Zealand Association in Hamburg, Germany, at the start of a five-week trade tour of Europe, Senator Cook foreshadowed an incoming Beazley Government's determination to conclude a trade treaty with Europe.


"Mr Howard promised an Australia-Europe Trade Treaty when he came to power," said Senator Cook.


"He hasn't delivered.


"During the Howard Government's first term, a framework agreement with treaty-like status was developed and brought to the point of signature, but Mr Howard intervened personally and killed it.


"The main stumbling block to Mr Howard was that he would not agree to the European Union's insistence on a human rights clause. That was more important to him than building a better commercial relationship, removing barriers to our exporters, and creating jobs in Australia.


"An Australia-Europe Trade Treaty will be an important priority for Labor. It will be as important to us as kickstarting a new round of world trade negotiations, re-engaging with Asia, and re-energising APEC.


"Unlike the Howard Government, Labor has no fears about a human rights provision in a Trade Treaty. We are confident that we can settle the issue appropriately.


"An Australia-Europe Trade Treaty will play to our national strengths. The biggest sector in Australia is services. It represents 79% of GDP and 82% of jobs. A trade treaty will open new markets and new opportunities for the Australian services sector.


"A treaty will also help boost Australian manufacturing. Our manufacturers have a high reputation in Europe. We make innovative products of top quality, competitively priced from short runs of production. Our manufacturers help the European majors customise their products for increasingly discerning consumers.


"Australia is among the top five information technology and telecommunications countries in the world, and thus a leader in the new economy. So is Europe. We can both benefit from a closer commercial relationship on all of these fronts.


"Labor will maintain efforts to open the door for our agricultural producers. This is of key importance to Australia. But we will handle this in a smarter way than the Coalition and with no less intensity. At the same time, Labor will put our national interest in promoting services and manufacturing exports on the same level.


"Australian farmers will be net beneficiaries of Labor's closer relationship. Enhancing our standing with Europe by bringing us to the level of treaty partners is critical to attracting the bureaucratic underpinning and Ministerial involvement to boost the business relationship.


"Our present arrangement is an exchange of letters between the EU and Australia. This is a trade relationship at the bottom of the food chain. A framework agreement expressed as an Australia-Europe Trade Treaty will put us at the top of the food chain - a far more influential position from which to address our concerns about the common agricultural policy.


"Reinvigorating the relationship means rethinking the rhetoric as well. Labor will be smarter. For too long agricultural negotiation has been clouded by unwise conflict. It is as if Australia's rural politicians need Europe's Common Agricultural Policy to rail against - for the symbolic value it gives them in the eyes of their farm constituency.


"Labor is about boosting agricultural incomes. We will argue agriculture on a win-win basis with Europe. Labor believes there is a massive misallocation of economic support to the European farm sector, which could be diverted to meeting urgent social needs within Europe. The argument we will make is this: reduce subsidies, reduce unemployment, reduce the budget drain on social expenditure, reduce the cost of clean green agriculture and increase your imports from Australia."


Senator Cook will canvass these proposals in meetings with the German, French, British and EU administrations in the coming weeks.


"I hope these ideas are stolen by the Howard government. If they are, our relationship with Europe will be improved, there will be more jobs for Australian workers and our farmers can look forward to finding new markets for their world-class products," Senator Cook said.


Authorised by Gary Gray, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.