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US Decision On Lamb Outrageous

The Hon Mark Vaile

MP

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry

8 July 1999

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Mark Vaile, today joined Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, in condemning the US tariff and quota restrictions imposed on Australia lamb.

Mr Vaile said the US decision to limit lamb imports to 35,000 tonnes (1998 levels), and impose a tariff of 9 per cent, would effectively cost Australian lamb producers $10 million a year.

"The move is hypocritical and flies in the face of rhetoric that US President Bill Clinton uses when talking about free trade," Mr Vaile said.

"Australian lamb producers have worked hard to develop this market without any support or subsidy from the Australian Government.

"They have developed this market by producing a high quality product and selling it at a competitive price. They are now being punished for being successful.

"This action demonstrates to the world that the US is not fair dinkum about fair trade.

"We do not accept this action. Apart from protesting to the US Government at the highest level, we will fight to have this overturned within the WTO.

"We will request consultations as soon as possible with the US Government under Article 12.3 of the WTO Safeguards Agreement. If these consultations do not produce satisfactory results, Australia will take action under WTO Disputes Settlement Procedures.

"In the meantime, the Federal Government will assist the industry in coping with the damage that will be caused by the US decision. Firstly, the Government will, for up to two years, pay for half the Transaction Levy applying to ALL lambs in Australia."

Currently the Transaction Levy is set at 2 per cent (to a max of $1.50/head) and the total value of levies raised across the industry is in the order of $10 million a year.

Mr Vaile said the Federal Government would also provide funding to assist our lamb export plants become even more internationally competitive.

"We will vigorously pursue all available avenues to fight this decision. We will highlight to the world the total hypocrisy now being shown by the US."

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