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Labor to continue down same trade path

Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

Labor to continue down same trade path

19 August 2010

AAP/Labor has promised more of the same on trade if it is re-elected on Saturday.

Trade Minister Stephen Smith has released Labor’s policy paper, which promises to continue striving for an "ambitious" outcome for Australia in the frustrated World Trade Organisation’s Doha round.

Labor would continue to use existing WTO rules strategically and defend Australia’s rules where needed, as seen in the appeal against the decision to allow New Zealand apple imports.
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Free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations would continue along with finance and promotion programs that support Australian exporters.

The coalition’s policy, released early in the campaign, increased funding to the Export Market Development Grants Scheme by $50 million, giving it a $200 million cap from July 1, 2011.

The scheme reimburses exporters for the cost of promoting their businesses.

The coalition’s trade spokesman Warren Truss said Labor had treated the portfolio with "disdain", and promised several appointments to reinvigorate the area.

It would start with a dedicated minister, and also appoint ambassadors for trade reform, manufacturing and service industries, and re-establish the Trade Advisory Council abolished by Labor.

But Mr Smith said the coalition had not attached funding to its promised appointments because the arrangement did not fit with its planned cuts to the public service.

Mr Truss had been "invisible" in his role, Mr Smith said.

"He did not ask a single question on trade in the life of the last parliament," he said.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) was pleased Labor would not be tempted to put agriculture in the too-hard basket and exclude it from future trade negotiations.

But it hoped Labor would match the coalition’s commitment to have a dedicated trade minister in cabinet, which was lost in the small reshuffle following Julia Gillard becoming prime minister.