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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 23:39 GMT 00:39 UK
Australia to scale back trade tariffs
Australian Prime Minister John Howard
John Howard pushes for free trade in farm products
Australian prime minister John Howard has said his country plans to eliminate all trade tariffs on imports from 50 poor nations.

Mr Howard's comments came ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting in Mexico.

"I am pleased to announce today that Australia will grant tariff and quota free access for 49 least developed countries as well as East Timor," he said.

Mr Howard attacked industrialised nations' failure to open their markets to agricultural products exported by the developing countries.

"The levels of protection in agriculture maintained by the United States, by Japan and by the European Union have an extremely adverse effect on many developing countries.

"Export earnings of the world's poorest countries are depressed by at least 10% because they are shut out of the world's biggest agricultural markets: The United States, the European Union, and Japan," he said.

Trade agenda

Mr Howard's remarks closely follow a European Union deal to gradually phase out farm subsidies condemned as inadequate by countries in favour of more radical reform.

The EU is under pressure to rein in its farm subsidies in order to facilitate the accession of ten eastern European countries, including several with large agricultural economies, over the next few years.

The EU's Common Agricultural Policy currently consumes 30bn a year, roughly a third of the bloc's annual budget.

Australia, a member of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations, is one of the most vociferous critics of Europe's farm subsidies.

Mr Howard urged APEC to keep the promotion of free trade at the top of its agenda, saying that dismantling trade barriers would help poor countries more than increased financial assistance in the long run.

"The key lesson of the last 50 years is that those countries that open their markets develop the most," he said.

See also:

25 Oct 02 | Politics
25 Oct 02 | Business
24 Oct 02 | Europe
27 Sep 02 | Business
03 Sep 02 | Business
26 Jul 02 | Business
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