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US to support trade push

THE US will support Australia’s push at the next World Trade Organisation meeting to remove agricultural subsidies, including those in the US, according to the newly appointed US Ambassador to Australia, Edward “Skip” Gnehm.

“It should come as welcome news that in the new WTO round, we – the US – are calling for the total elimination of all agricultural export subsidies,” the Ambassador told a recent American Chamber of Commerce in Australia luncheon.

“The US welcomes the opportunity to partner with the Cairns Group in working toward a meaningful result in the current WTO round.”

He was lavish in his praise for Western Australians saying the impression he would take back to Canberra was the dynamic attitude of the people.

“Everywhere I went, whether it was Karratha or down at the naval base or along the coast or at the university, what I hear from people is what they are getting ready to do – the new project, the new expansion, the new market, the new curriculum, the new approach,” he said.

“And what that says to me is that you have a very innovative, a very dynamic and a very forward looking approach to life.

“I like that. Americans like that. America wants to be a part of something like that.”

He said the role of a US diplomat was to unashamedly attempt to further the business interests of its citizens.

“I have always been deeply involved in business wherever I went. I think this is a very critical part of an American Ambassador’s role,” Mr Gnehm said.

“We are out there in the world supporting our businesses and supporting our people.”

He said that during the past 20 years the Australian economy grew 3.5 per cent a year on average while Australian exports had grown three times faster.

“Thus the relative size and importance of the US market to Australia is continuously growing,” he said.

The US has become the number one destination for Australian foreign investment, while the US is the largest investor in Australia.

A recent report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in WA, 15 per cent of private capital investment originated from the US and accounted for 60 per cent of total foreign investment in Australia.

Mr Gnehm said the growing relationship was likely to continue, thanks in part to the “Federal Government’s decision … to put Australia’s tax regime for collective investment vehicles on par with that of the US”.

“This makes Australia a more attractive destination for investments by US pensions funds,” he said.

He said the US had been a leader in trade for the past 50 years and would continue to try to break down trade barriers.

“At Seattle we sought to make the WTO more transparent, more participatory – in short frankly more democratic,” Mr Gnehm said.

“The US also pushed hard for a full inclusion of agriculture within the rules of world trade. For a reason that cannot be really justified, agriculture has been excluded from trade rules until now.”

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