News Releases

Murray Calls for Investigation of Australian Wheat Board Sales to Iraq

Oct 31 2003

The ability of U.S. wheat producers to compete in a competitive global marketplace requires our vigilance over unfair practices by any other nation

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Standing up for U.S. wheat producers, Sen. Patty Murray has called upon the Bush Administration to investigate an Australian wheat sale to Iraq in which Australians were paid almost twice as much as American wheat producers would have charged.

"Our government must ensure our producers have the opportunity to compete fairly for wheat sales in Iraq," Murray wrote in a letter to President Bush.

A recent report disclosed that in January 2003, the former Iraqi government contracted to purchase 525,000 metric tons of wheat from the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) at a price nearly double what American producers were charging.

The report found that the Australians sold the wheat at 280 Euros per metric ton at a time when the Euro was worth about one dollar. U.S. export wheat prices were approximately $151 per metric ton at the time

Murray has called for an investigation into the January 2003 AWB sale to Iraq as well as any other AWB wheat sale made through the UN Oil for Food program.

"Australia is an ally and an important trade partner," Murray wrote. "However, with a $20 billion request to rebuild Iraq before the Congress, U.S. taxpayers have a right to ask if Australia acted improperly in close cooperation with the former government of Saddam Hussein to manipulate wheat sales."

Murray continued, "Mr. President, I encourage you to convene an inter-agency task force to fully investigate this issue. The ability of U.S. wheat producers to compete in a competitive global marketplace requires our vigilance over unfair practices by any other nation."

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A complete copy of Murray's letter follows:



October 31, 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500



Dear President Bush:

I am writing to bring your immediate attention to an issue of great concern to wheat growers in Washington state. I strongly encourage you to convene an inter-agency task force to investigate reports of unusual wheat sales from the Australian Wheat Board to the former Iraqi government through the United Nation’s Oil for Food program.

A recent news report disclosed that in January 2003, the former Iraqi government contracted to purchase wheat from the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) that was nearly double the price of wheat produced in the United States. This revelation raises serious questions about the tactics used by the AWB in negotiating contracts with the former Iraqi government and requires further scrutiny of existing AWB contracts with the Provisional Government of Iraq.

The Iraqi government apparently agreed to purchase 525,000 metric tons of wheat at 280 euros per metric ton. At the time of the sale the euro was worth about $1 and U.S. export wheat prices were approximately $151 per metric ton. With U.S. wheat prices at historically low levels, the AWB was able to negotiate a contract through the United Nations' Oil for Food program that paid Australian producers close to $280 per metric ton for comparable wheat.

Our government must ensure our producers have the opportunity to compete fairly for wheat sales in Iraq. Therefore, I respectfully request the Administration fully investigate the January 2003 AWB sale to Iraq as well as any other AWB wheat sales made through the UN Oil for Food program.

With a Free Trade Agreement with Australia on the Administration's agenda, I encourage you to include the United States Trade Representative in this review of AWB sales to Iraq. This review should be concluded prior to Congressional consideration of any Free Trade Agreement with Australia. Additionally, I believe the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of

Commerce all have a role to play in this important investigation. Finally, the Administration should request a full accounting from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq with regards to any information it has discovered on the AWB sales to Saddam Hussein's government.

Australia is an ally and an important trade partner. However, with a $20 billion request to rebuild Iraq now before the Congress, U.S. taxpayers have a right to ask if Australia acted improperly in close cooperation with the former government of Saddam Hussein to manipulate wheat sales.

Mr. President, again, I encourage you to convene an inter-agency task force to fully investigate this issue. The ability of U.S. wheat producers to compete in a competitive global marketplace requires our vigilance over unfair practices by any other nation.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator