Support for the Australian car industry in Saudi Arabia

Media release

Abu Dhabi

8 March 2011

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday threw his weight behind Australian car exports to Saudi Arabia.

In a meeting with Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Jawad, CEO of Universal Motor Agency (UMA), Mr Rudd undertook to push for the early conclusion of the Australia-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) free trade agreement (FTA).

Saudi Arabia is Australia's largest export market for cars. In 2010, almost 50 per cent of all Australia passenger motor vehicle exports, worth $886 million, went to Saudi Arabia.

"UMA is the largest Saudi Arabian distributor for General Motors, which sells the Australian-made Holden Commodore and Statesman models. Saudi Arabia is also an important market for Toyota Australia," Mr Rudd said.

"Australian-made vehicles are highly regarded in the Saudi market for their reliability and performance. But the competition is tough, and Australian exporters need all the help they can get, especially with a high Australian dollar.

"The Gulf region more broadly is critical for Australia's car exports. Last year, over 80 per cent of Australian car exports, worth $1.45 billion, went to the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar," Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd will also push for an early conclusion of the FTA when he meets with his Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts at the inaugural Australia-GCC Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue in Abu Dhabi later today.

"Lower tariffs on Australian cars entering the GCC market, which Australia seeks in the FTA, would increase the competitiveness of Australian-made cars and thereby support Australian jobs."

In addition to Australia's automotive exports, the GCC FTA would help to consolidate other important trade and investment ties between Australia and the Gulf. Merchandise trade between Australia and the GCC countries amounted to $8.7 billion in 2010, and there are growing investment and services links that could benefit from the conclusion of the FTA.

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