Gillard good on free trade

JULIA GILLARD has declared that the decade-old push for global free trade has failed and unless a new, more realistic approach is adopted, the world could lurch back towards protectionism - and developing nations would suffer.

In a speech to more than 1200 business figures from around the world in Perth last night, the Prime Minister said that while a new approach was being pursued, Australia would continue to encourage other developed nations to embrace free trade by continuing to accept all imports from about 50 developing nations without tariffs or quotas. "I believe this is a path other developed economies should pursue - and it is one they could pursue now," she said.

"To encourage global action, Australia is prepared to keep leading the way in opening doors for developing nations."

Ms Gillard said the all-or-nothing Doha free trade push for a global free-trade agreement had to be abandoned because after 10 years there was no sign of a breakthrough.

Instead, a global free-trade agreement should be pursued sector by sector, such as in agriculture, manufacturing and services. "It is time to consider breaking the Doha round into more manageable parts and bringing them to successful conclusion as negotiations are completed," she said.

"We know that some issues are very close to resolution. It makes sense to conclude and implement these."

Ms Gillard said there were disturbing early signs that the world was retreating towards closed-door policies.

When trade ministers next met in Geneva in December, Australia would pledge to receive imports from the poorest countries free of tariffs and quotas, and not to adopt any protectionist measures while the free-trade pursuit continued.

The Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, who conceived the new approach, told the Herald the pledges would apply a gold standard. "We would ask other countries to meet that standard or go as close as they can."


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