Aussies defend drought aid

MELBOURNE, Australia (Reuters) — The Australian government said Sept. 29 its financial assistance to drought-affected farmers did not contravene the country’s free-trade agreements.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that an additional A$100 million would be made available for drought-stricken farmers, with lower eligibility standards so more could access the previously committed A$7 billion in aid.

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the support was not a farm subsidy that could jeopardize Australia’s obligations under its free-trade agreements.

“As an exporter of 70 percent of what we produce, we don’t want to be doing anything here at home that puts at risk our ability to trade,” McKenzie told Sky News.

Parts of Australia’s east coast are suffering under the worst drought in living memory.

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