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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11008


Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/07/1999

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11008



Surely the lamb issue came up, what did you say?


Yes it did. The President and I had a one-on-one meeting before lunch.

We talked about lamb mainly during that discussion and I made it plain

to him that that issue had caused a greater adverse reaction in Australia

on a trade matter than any other trade issue that I could remember.


You are really furious about it aren't you?


Well, we are very unhappy, very unhappy. And we made it very plain

that the thing that particularly upset us was the imposition of a

tariff on the in-quota area. I raised with him the difficulty of the

transitional impact of the decision and our officials have agreed

to work on that. I pointed out that we would pursue our remedies in

the World Trade Organisation and that we would be providing compensation

to the Australian lamb producers who have been adversely affected

by this decision. Both of us agreed that our differences on lamb notwithstanding,

we had to work together to achieve freer trade goals within the confines

of the World Trade Organisation. We are both going to work very hard

on getting a Leaders' Declaration out of the APEC meeting in New Zealand

directed towards ensuring that we have a good result at the World

Trade Organisation when the comprehensive trade round commences which

we both very strongly support.


How did the President respond on lamb?


Well, the President understood that we were very angered about it

and very upset about it. He indicated that there were domestic considerations

that he took into account and that he believed that taking in account

of those considerations was important to the broader goals he felt

that he had in relation to trade. I mean, I really think they are

questions that have to be directed to him. I mean, I put a view, I

put a view publicly, I put a view privately, I am repeating it here

today. Everybody knows our position. We are upset at the decision

but it's not going to be changed. I understand that. It doesn't make

it any easier for us. We don't agree with the decision but equally

we can't allow it to contaminate a broader relationship -- certainly

not the security aspects of that relationship.


Has it not already affected the relationship?


Well, it's caused the most adverse reaction of any trade decision

the United States has taken in recent times. I can't think of one

that's caused a more adverse reaction in Australia. Now, I told the

President that. I told those who were at the lunch that. Now, that

doesn't mean that you are allowed to contaminate other aspects of

a very broad, a very deep relationship. Somebody asked me about the

aid workers. I discussed their fate at length last night with the

Secretary of State. I raised their position with the President and

others during the luncheon today and they both indicated that they

would do all they could over the days and weeks ahead to build the

pressure to secure their release. We remain very concerned about their

situation and we certainly appreciate the efforts that have been made

by a lot of people and we'll, of course, continue to make our own

efforts to bring about their release.


And what about Indonesia and Timor, Prime Minister,.


Well, we discussed Indonesia and Timor at very great length over lunch.

I said that Indonesia deserved from the world perhaps a little more

credit and a little more praise and understanding for the transition

that was occurring in that country towards a more democratic system

of government. We remain very strongly committed to a clean and open

ballot in East Timor to determine the fate of that territory. I said

that it was important to keep things in proportion. There are 950,000

people in East Timor, there are 211 million people in the whole of

Indonesia and it's important that the rest of the world understand

that proportionality and the pressures that are on Indonesia in relation

to the whole of the country and not just East Timor.


Sir, is there anything the President can do to make up to Australia,

to compensate in some other area?


Well, look, it's not a question of making up or compensating in other

areas; it's a question of dealing with the merits of individual issues.

When you have a relationship which is as old as ours and is as close

as ours you can talk very frankly and very directly when you are upset

about something in perhaps a way you can't when you have a relationship

with another country. Now, we are very upset about this particular

issue and there's no point in mincing words about it. But on other

issues, of course, we'll continue to work very closely together and

I think it's a question of moving on to ensure as best we can together

to get good outcomes from the World Trade Organisation. I think that

would be a good goal for both countries to set themselves but that's

not going to alter our sense of disappointment.


What do you want the WTO to do?


Well, I want the WTO to do something more to free up trade in agriculture,

for example. Because that's something that we are very good at and

we think the rules on agriculture now are loaded against countries

like Australia and we have just seen an example of it.


The US wants an early harvest on agriculture, they want agriculture..


Well, we wall want that. Everybody wants an early harvest. Some get

it and some don't.


The American Farm Bureau is saying that's detrimental to agriculture,

they want a singular undertaking so that agriculture will get the

full benefits..


Well, as a very efficient agricultural exporting nation Australia

has an unambiguous national interest in having as liberal a trading

environment in agriculture as possible. That has always been our position

and that is why, of course, we are very disappointed and upset and

cranky about the US lamb decision.


Prime Minister, did you raise the issue of China joining the WTO..


Yes, yes. The President indicated to me that he is very strongly in

favour of China joining the World Trade Organisation. We discussed

that at very considerable length and we'll be working together to

bring that about.


What about your concerns about the relationship between the US and

China after the bombing in Belgrade?


Well, he raised that. I mean, it's self-evident that that has been

a setback to US/China relations. I think that's a matter for the American

administration to talk about rather than me.


Given the performance on lamb how can you be confident that Mr Clinton

will show a leadership role at the WTO..


Well, I think on this, as in all other political things, you have

to react to what people do and give praise where it is due and criticise

where you don't agree with what's being done. I mean, as I said, we

have a very broad relationship with the United States. We are unhappy

about one aspect of it at the present time but there are a lot of

other things that we are not unhappy about. The President's reaffirmed

his commitment to the importance of APEC. He understands, as I do,

the importance of the APEC leaders coming out very strongly in favour

of an effective world trade round. We both want to have an effective

World Trade Organisation round. We want it to be comprehensive, we

want everything on the table. We both said today to each other that

we want to work together on that. Well, let's see what happens. I

think in six months you come and ask me the same question and I'll

give you my reaction.


It's outcomes that count.


Outcomes always count in politics. They are far more important than

rhetoric. It's outcomes that matter and it's outcomes that electorates

either in the United States or in Australia respond to. Thank you.


Transcript 11008