Export deals on line
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard will push for a better deal for Australian exporters when she meets with US President Barack Obama at the White House.
Security issues including Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and the changing dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region are also expected to feature in the talks today on Ms Gillard’s first visit to Washington DC as Prime Minister.
The US president, who will host APEC in Hawaii later this year, wants to see significant progress on a new free trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership ( TPP) – a move supported by Ms Gillard.
The partnership – which the US, Australia, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam are look- ing at joining – currently only involves Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.
Ms Gillard believes the TPP could eventually lead to an Asia-Pacific free trade area.
She will also stress the need to conclude the Doha round of multilateral trade talks this year. But Ms Gillard is also expected to step up pressure for the US to cut farm subsidies, which adversely affect Australian farmers.
At least 40 per cent of American farmers receive some form of subsidy under federal law known as the Farm Bill, which has been routinely renewed . Ms Gillard is expected to argue that despite the struggling US economy, the powerhouse nation needs to avoid building protectionist walls and pass a farm bill that promotes trade.
At the same time Australian farmers are expected to be asked to play a role in a new aid package to Egypt, being developed following t he democratic uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak from power.
The package, which is being negotiated with input from Egypt and the United Nations, is expected to not only include food but help to run elections.
Australia exported $ 411 million in wheat, coal and other goods to Egypt in the past financial year.
Continuing her economic and trade theme, the prime minister will also hold talks with Treasury secretary Tom Geithner, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
Ms Gillard will become the fourth Australian prime minister to address a joint sitting of Congress.
HISTORIC VISIT: PM Julia Gillard with Australian Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazeley in Washington