MEDIA BACKGROUND

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade





1996 FEDERAL BUDGET - TRADE POLICY: A PROGRESS REPORT

In its trade policy document "Meeting the Challenges" the Coalition outlined an extensive program of activity to improve Australia's export performance, and to improve the competitive performance of the export sector.

In its first five months of government, the Coalition has made significant progress in meeting those challenges. That progress can be summarised as follows:

Annual Trade Outcomes and Objectives Statement
This will be used to benchmark Australia's trade performance and identify key priorities. Preparatory work is under way within DFAT, and it will be tabled in Parliament early in 1997.

Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper
This has been formally commissioned, and the first meeting of Ministers and the advisory panel has taken place. The White Paper will represent the first ever comprehensive statement on foreign affairs and trade produced by an Australian Government.

Elevate the priority of bilateral relations
A bilateral Market Development Taskforce has been established within DFAT with the aim of focusing our bilateral market access efforts and linking them more closely with trade promotions. The Minister for Trade, Mr Fischer, has
- signed a fruit market access agreement with the Philippines;
- negotiated an updated Trade Agreement with Malaysia;
- signed a Double Taxation Agreement with Chile;
- signed an Austrade-Exportar bilateral cooperation agreement with Argentina;
- signed an expanded air services agreement with Indonesia;
- witnessed an industry to industry wool cooperation agreement with Mexico; and
- pursued other market access priorities during bilateral trade discussions both in Australia and overseas.
He will convene a Joint Ministerial Council with Saudi Arabia in mid-October which will explore bilateral issues and business linkages.

Give priority to trading relations with Asia
Mr Fischer has visited seven regional countries to conduct bilateral trade talks and trade promotion activities. He will lead business delegations on forthcoming trips and pursue market access priorities.

Retain single-desk export powers for the Australian wheat industry
Reaffirmed by the Prime Minister in the Parliament, as a legitimate strategy in the best interests of the industry.

Support APEC and appoint an Ambassador to APEC
Ambassador Peter Grey has been appointed. Australia submitted a progressive APEC Individual Action Plan on schedule, and played a significant role in the APEC Trade Ministers' Meeting in New Zealand. We are examining other IAPs with a view to encouraging genuine trade liberalisation efforts in the region.

Promote a "Year of South Asia", develop closer relations with region, particularly India
Mr Fischer launched the India "New Horizons" promotion. Plans for the "Year of South Asia" are well advanced, including plans for a visit to South Asia in early 1997.

Develop a Supermarket to Asia program
The Government is spending $5.4 million a year over the next three years, through the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism and the Department of Primary Industries and Energy, to implement the Supermarket to Asia strategy. It will be overseen by a high-level council, involving Government and industry representatives. Its job will be to substantially improve the international competitiveness of the Australian food industry in order to fully capture the opportunities arising in Asia and elsewhere for quality food. Further details of the council will be announced shortly.

Review the structure of Austrade to make it more effective
This has been completed, as reflected in the Budget papers. Details of new arrangements will be announced shortly. A key objective of the restructure is to allow Austrade to better tap regional demand and to focus it on providing services to small and medium-sized businesses.

Examine ways of providing more effective export assistance programs
Measures taken in the 1996 Budget will better target the EMDG scheme to small and medium exporters, as will the lowered threshold for access to the scheme. After review, ITES has been concluded.

Establish consultative mechanisms with business
The APEC Business Advisory Group (ABAG) has been formally established by the Prime Minister. Mr Fischer has established a Business Advisory Forum - APEC, to take place end of September to seek business input prior to the APEC November meetings. Mr Fischer has also developed a specific strategy for consultation with the States and business, in addition to extensive consultations in which he is engaged on a daily basis. He has restructured the Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) in order to enhance its consultations.

In addition to placing a priority on Asia, take fullest advantage of opportunities in North America, Europe, India, Latin America
Mr Fischer has visited the US and Latin America for bilateral trade consultations and promotion. He has launched the India New Horizons promotion, and plans to visit India and South Asia next year. He has launched studies of EU trade and agriculture, and held consultations with Sir Leon Brittan and other European Ministers both here and overseas. Mr Fischer has commissioned a major study of the trade relationship with South America.

Give priority to ensuring that the Uruguay Round outcome is fully implemented, and that momentum for liberalisation is maintained within the WTO, through the forums of the Cairns Group and APEC.

This has been addressed through bilateral meetings with Ministers and the Director-General of the WTO, in the EU context, at the Cairns Group meeting in Colombia (which Australia chaired), and at the APEC Trade Ministers Meeting in New Zealand.
Australia has put forward proposals such as on industrial tariffs, and is aiming for early commencement of preparatory work on all areas of the built-in agenda, including agriculture, at these meetings. Australia put forward progressive offers in sectoral negotiations on telecoms and maritime.

Revitalisation of CER and conclusion of Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement
The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement Arrangement has been signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries. Mr Fischer has had a number of bilateral discussions with New Zealand and has accorded CER a high priority.



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