A bilateral agreement between Australia and Russia on technology
safeguards for the Christmas Island spaceport project, to be run
by the Asia Pacific Space Centre, has moved a step closer after
three days of talks in Moscow.

The Christmas Island project will bring major economic benefits
to both countries with commercial launches expected to commence
in 2004. It will also be the most important trade and investment
deal between Russia and Australia to date.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said he and the Director General
of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Mr Yuri Koptev, had
agreed to a set of principles that will guide the final drafting
of an inter-governmental Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA)
which is an essential element of the project proceeding.

Both sides will now seek confirmation from their respective
Governments to the proposed arrangements before finalizing

"The Christmas Island space project is unique. It will be the
first time that wholly Russian launch vehicles will be deployed
outside the former Soviet Union and that obviously poses some
distinctive challenges for both Governments.

"To move forward we needed to strike a balance between concerns
in relation to Australian sovereignty and Russian and Australian
obligations under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR),"
said Mr Macfarlane.

Mr Macfarlane said he was pleased with the progress made in
Moscow and that it would be possible to give both Governments
the confidence that their commitments under the MTCR would be
met and that Russian intellectual property and Australian
sovereignty would be protected.

"There are a few steps left to take — there has to be a final
tick-off from both sides and it will be up to the developer of
the space centre to finalize arrangements for construction of
the critical facilities."

"But we have reached an in-principle agreement on the way forward
and it is now up to officials from both sides to develop the
formal texts that will form the final inter-governmental
agreement," he said.

Once signed the finalized TSA will have Treaty status and will be
subject to parliamentary scrutiny.