Australia has admitted that it is uncertain as to the stance George W Bush will take on US farm assistance, and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) are giving top priority to pressing US administration to reduce subsidies for its farmers.

Representatives from Australia have already visited Washington to protest about high levels of assistance, which they claim have blocked fair competition for Australian imports throughout the Clinton administration.

It is as yet unclear, however, which way Bush will go. The US farm lobby is pressing for increased subsidies, but the American president has already revealed that he supports trade liberalisation. Gary Connolly, first assistant secretary for the DFAT America and Europe division, commented that any decisions would not be made until the administration has had some more time to settle down.