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Fischer Condemns US Decision On Aussie Lamb




7 July 1999

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Tim Fischer, expressed outrage at the US decision announced in Washington today to impose unjustifiable trade restraints against Australia lamb exports.

The decision imposes tariff rate quotas on lamb for the next three years. It will limit total imports of lamb into the US to 1998 levels of around 32,000 metric tonnes, with only a small growth factor over the next three years. An in-quota tariff of nine per cent has also been imposed.

'The Prime Minister will be taking this issue up directly with President Clinton next week. I have also instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to seek immediate consultations in the World Trade Organization.'

'This is nothing more than a regrettable cave-in to protectionist pressures and makes a mockery of US claims that they want fair international trade in agriculture," Mr Fischer said. "It sends a very negative signal about our trade relationship, the worst in many years'.

Mr Fischer said the one month delay by the US in making the decision reflected Australia's intensive lobbying which has averted even harsher remedies.

'While trade is likely to continue at existing levels, valued at over $100 million last year, further growth oil which the industry was banking has now been effectively extinguished. I am very angry that with the Seattle WTO Ministerial meeting only some six months away, the US is putting in place measures that penalise successful unsubsidised Australian producers.'

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'The US has chosen to ignore that it is quality considerations and poor promotion of the American domestic product rather than imports which is the cause of US industry decline. The rejection of the Australian/New Zealand industry offer of up to $1.5 million annually for generic promotion in the US is all the more difficult to fathom in this regard.'

Mr Fischer said 'this punitive action is also inconsistent with recent increase in lamb prices in the United States which shows that the threat of injury resulting from imports was nothing but a protectionist ploy.'

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