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
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,
- 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;
- 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
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 CairnsGroup 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
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.