The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
FORMER MINISTER FOR TRADE

Speech

Australian Minister for Trade and Deputy Leader of the National Party, Mark Vaile
to the Darwin Press Club

Darwin, 13 July 2001

The Northern Territory - A Showcase for the Benefits of Trade

(Check against delivery)

Introduction

I'm very pleased to be in Darwin, and delighted that my friend and colleague, Daryl Manzie, has asked me to address you again this afternoon.

Today I'm holding my annual National Trade Consultations with colleagues from all the States and Territories. With its energetic commercial environment andoutward-looking approach - now being showcased in another excellent NT Expo - Darwin is a great venue for sharpening our focus on Australia's trade interests and opportunities!

Every time I visit the NT I'm impressed by how it has used its geographic and historical ties in the region to punch above its weight. The NT's importance as a gateway for trade will increase even more in the years ahead, thanks to what our Government has done to bring about construction of the Adelaide to Darwin railway. And our historic deal with East Timor last week will bring big benefits to Darwin, including a methanol plant worth millions of dollars.

Today I would like to pay a special tribute to Daryl Manzie. As Minister for Asian Relations and Trade, he has been a key person in the NT's trade success, working tirelessly to build business alliances and relationships in the region. When Daryl leaves politics at the NT election later this year, the NT will lose someone who has provided an outstanding example of how personal contact in the region can bring trade wins for the Territory, and for Australia.

It is a testament to the regional links Daryl has helped to build, that President Wahid came to Darwin for official meetings and a business forum during his recent Australian visit. This week the Indonesian Minister for Trade and Industry, HE Mr Luhut Panjaitan, is here. I had talks with him yesterday, and spoke at a joint meeting of the Australia-Indonesia and Indonesia-Australia Business Councils. It was clear again from these contacts that the NT is very well-positioned to exploit trade opportunities in Indonesia. Daryl deserves a lot of the credit for this.

A winner of a year

In some parts of the Australian community there are differing perceptions about the benefits of trade. But here in the Territory - at the frontline of a key region for exports and investment - people understand the reality that trade is of immense value, both to them and Australia.

The figures for 2000 show these benefits in a spectacular way. Australian exports grew by 25% to $142 billion - the best export growth for 21 years. This helped us to halve our trade deficit from $16.6 billion to $7.7 billion. And the performance was strong across all export categories.

The NT benefited from this success, doubling its exports in 2000 to $4.2 billion. Exports of NT petroleum products went from just $178 million in 1999 to a massive $2.8 billion in 2000. The NT's exports of travel services grew 32% to $132 million in the year ended June 2000. And NT's total exports of services grew by $98 million to $364 million in the same period.

An important message

Export success is not just a win for exporters. It is also a win for local communities. One in five Australian jobs depends on exports, and close to one in four in regional Australia.

Our $142 billion of exports last year accounted for 22% of Australia's GDP. Given that fewer than 5% of non-farm businesses export, if we can encourage more successful non-farm exporters we can dramatically improve Australia's economic prosperity.

As a nation we need to get that message out to everyone. Our Government's 'Exporting for the Future' program is playing a key role in this:

I recently launched a major report, "From Sheep's Back to Cyberspace", that highlights innovative and successful exporters all over Australia. And my Department has spread the message through brochures that feature successful exporters in individual regions.

The NT has given us plenty of material for the message that trade brings Australia big economic benefits.

For instance, Aerosail Pty Ltd has won jobs in the Philippines, Singapore and Guam. The Central Australian Camel Industry Association exports live camels to Brunei for meat production. AndCB Coleman Landscaping recently supplied a full replacement turf cricket pitch for the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur.

I'm particularly pleased that NT exporters recognise the benefits of e-commerce. For example, NT Irrigation, Grain and Fodder Producers Association is actively pushing its members into online overseas markets, and Skinnyfish Music is successfully exporting Australian Indigenous Music CDs online.

Economic reform and support for exporters

Our Government is backing up the message on the benefits of trade, by delivering a business environment and government programs that foster competitive exporters.

We have extended for another 5 years the Export Markets Development Grants scheme. We are creating an alliance between the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation's credit insurance business and a private sector insurer to bring even more competitive trade credit services to exporters. And Austrade has established 24 TradeStart offices around Australia, including in Darwin and Alice Springs, to assist companies into export for the first time.

We have helped exporters through tax changes that have replaced inefficient indirect taxes with a single GST, cutting exporters' costs by over $3.5 billion a year. And we have built on wider reforms covering company law, workplace relations, transport and broad market deregulation.

The WTO - our top priority

We are also backing up the message on trade by firmly promoting the interests of our exporters in international negotiations.

Our highest trade policy priority is the launch of a new round of global trade negotiations at the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Doha, Qatar, in November. A new round focused on market access gains in agriculture, services and industrials would bring major benefits to Australia, potentially adding more than US$5 billion to our economy. If a new round merely halved barriers to trade it could increase the world's GDP by US$400 billion a year. With signs that the global economy is slowing, the need for global trade reform is particularly urgent.

But success in Doha is by no means guaranteed. There are still a lot of difficult issues to resolve by November. I am in close contact with all the major players to help launch a new round. I speak regularly to EC Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, US Trade Representative Bob Zoellick, and Trade Ministers in important developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

I intend to make sure that our approach to a new round reflects the views of all Australians. Two weeks ago I chaired the first meeting of a new WTO Advisory Group drawn from industry and NGOs. I invited its members to join the Australian delegation in Doha. My Department is also consulting widely in the community and has launched a Doha website and newsletter. I urge anyone who is interested in the WTO to have a look at the website.

At the same time as working for a new round, we will continue to use the WTO's dispute settlement system to make sure Australian exporters get a fair deal. For instance, we successfully challenged the United States in the WTO about the tariff quota on lamb meat imports it imposed to protect its domestic market. We have urged the US to implement the WTO's rulings by withdrawing the quotas as quickly as possible. The Government recently strengthened its WTO dispute capability in my Department, to ensure we have the resources to build on our recent successes. I encourage exporters facing barriers to markets to take full advantage of this expertise.

We are also making major efforts to get China into the WTO as soon as possible. With the very considerable progress made in Geneva last week, we hope this will occur at the end of the year. China's accession will significantly improve our prospects in a market that is crucial for Australia, including for the NT's live cattle exporters and small agribusiness interests. We will be providing assistance to help China implement its WTO commitments, and of course we will be watching closely to ensure that the benefits are fully realised.

Free trade agreements

Parallel to our efforts in the WTO, we are also pursuing free trade agreements that could mean significant wins for Australian exporters.
In all our FTA negotiations, we are consulting widely to make sure we reflect the interests of all Australians, both in business and the wider community.

Bilateral market wins

Finally, we continue to work bilaterally - and successfully - to remove market access barriers to Australian exports.

In the past year we have had major wins through my Department's Market Development Task Force, which focuses on achieving better market access in priority markets identified by industry. The wins include new IT sales of over $25 million in Japan, $15 million in contracts with International Purchasing Offices in Singapore, a $13 million contract for Australian IT company Pentaq in India, access for 35 Australian firms to multilateral procurement contracts in East Timor and the removal of barriers for lamb exports to Jordan worth $42 million a year.

Conclusion

The year ahead will be challenging for our exporters. Demand for Australian goods and services will probably be affected by a slowdown in global economic growth. And securing market access wins will continue to require perseverance.

With an excellent export performance in 2000, including from the Northern Territory, with many more Australian firms operating in many new overseas markets, and with our domestic reform program bringing major outcomes for business, Australia is well placed to deal with the challenges.

I am confident our trade policy will continue to deliver great results for our exporters, and real benefits for all Australians.


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