Prime Minister Julia Gillard has vowed to give developing countries access to the Australian market free of tariffs, and she has ruled out increasing trade protections while the Doha round of free-trade talks is at a standstill.
At the Commonwealth Business Forum in Perth on Tuesday, Ms Gillard said she wanted Australia to “make a difference for the small and medium countries of the world” and the best way to reduce poverty was trade liberalisation.
Australia was prepared to lead the way in opening doors for developing nations on the trade front, she said.
“Australia will continue the strongest possible commitment to market access for the world’s poorest countries, irrespective of the settlement of other issues in the Doha Round,” Ms Gillard said.
“Tonight I pledge that the world’s least developed countries will have access to Australia’s market free of tariffs and quotas for 100 per cent of the goods they export to our country.”
Ms Gillard urged other countries to follow Australia’s lead ahead of the biennial meeting of trade ministers in Geneva in December.
“These pledges should be unconditional. They shouldn’t be contingent upon the settlement of other issues in the Doha negotiations,” she said.
Australia is also willing to help lead the global fight against protectionism, the prime minister said.
She announced that her government would make a commitment at the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial meeting not to increase protections while the Doha negotiations were at standstill.
“This is an essential policy prescription if an enduring global economic recovery is to be achieved,” she said.
The Doha trade negotiations needed a new direction, Ms Gillard said.
“It’s time to consider breaking the Doha Round into more manageable parts and bringing them to successful conclusion as negotiations are completed,” she said.
“We should also contemplate negotiating new issues, in parallel with Doha but beyond the existing Doha mandate, to ensure the World Trade Organisation keeps pace with the demands of the modern economy.”
Doha was intended to be a development round, Ms Gillard said.
“It must deliver greatly improved market access for the world’s least developed countries, almost a third of them commonwealth nations.”