Subject: Rep. Kennedy during U.S.-Australia FTA debate

From Congressional Record


[Page: H5715]

Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island. Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hard work and leadership of the Chairman and Ranking Member in producing this Australian Free Trade Agreement.

It is a credit to the diligence and dedication of the Australian government that this complex Free Trade Agreement was completed in under a year.

That is why I'm hopeful that the Australian government will employ that same diligence and dedication in resolving a dispute over maritime boundaries with its neighbor, East Timor.

Fifty-three of my colleagues have already joined in supporting East Timor's call for a fair and expeditious resolution to this dispute.

These disputed boundaries are a reminder of the invalid agreements made between Indonesia and Australia during the Indonesian military occupation of East Timor.

The East Timorese struggle for independence will not be complete until East Timor, a fully sovereign country, no longer has to bear that lingering reminder of subjugation.

To be sure, there is tremendous enormous financial benefit dependent upon how these maritime boundaries are drawn.

Rich with oil and natural gas reserves, these critical areas are an economic resource for a struggling country of very little economic activity.

A country struggling with high maternal mortality, widespread malaria and tuberculosis, rampant poverty, and desperately needed education.

The Australian government was a leader in assisting East Timor's transition to democracy. It provided peacekeepers and foreign aid. But since 1999, Australia has acquired an average of $1 million a day in petroleum from the disputed areas, exceeding the amount of assistance it provided to East Timor.

The Free Trade Agreement today between our two countries are a mark of respect we have for each other. A fair and equitable resolution of this boundary dispute with East Timor honors Australia's leadership and commitment to fostering a strong and enduring democracy.

As a friend of Australia, I respectfully urge its government to rejoin the international dispute resolution mechanisms and expeditiously negotiate a permanent maritime boundary in the Timor Sea in good faith, according to the established principles of international law.

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