Agriculture first for Australian trade

THE Federal Government is keeping its maligned agriculture first trade policy because it gives Australia a seat at the “big table” of world trade, says Trade Minister Mark Vaile.

Mr Vaile told a Chamber of Commerce and Industry luncheon that, while Australia was only a small player in world trade, its standing in agriculture had put it among the big boys.

However, agriculture makes up only 21 per cent of Australia’s exports. Minerals and fuel account for 22 per cent while manufactures and services account for another 25 per cent each.

Mr Vaile said WA had a big standing nationally in export terms. While it is home to only 10 per cent of Australia’s population, the state is responsible for 25 per cent of Australia’s exports.

He said, despite the failure of the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle, they were the only game in town as far as he was concerned.

“The talks failed because big players such as Japan and the US overloaded the agenda with their own trade issues,” Mr Vaile said.

“This year or next year a new round of WTO trade talks will be launched.”

Mr Vaile said Australia had to play a major part in the WTO talks.

“We need a better system for world trade and we can’t revert back to Island Australia,” he said.

“Australia is recognised as a successful and professional country. We should capitalise on this.

“If we get all the changes we want in the next round it will be worth about $7.5 billion to us.

“Clean market access is something many Australian companies don’t have.”

Mr Vaile said China’s entry into the WTO would be one of the big events in the near future.

In fact, Curtin University was directly involved with China’s bid for WTO inclusion.

Mr Vaile said the Federal Govern-ment would focus on strengthening ties with South East Asian nations as they emerged from recession.

WA pork producers have already benefited from Singaporean demand and now have 30 per cent of that country’s pork market.

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