ANDREW ROBB: Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I'm Andrew Robb. I'm the Trade and Investment Minister from Australia and, obviously, we're hosting the negotiations that have been conducted since Saturday and we've also been the host of a week-long negotiation that preceded that of our chief negotiators and their negotiating teams. Those same teams, after today, are staying on for another three or four days to continue that process based on the decisions that have been taken over the last couple of days by my ministerial and heads of delegation colleagues that are with me on the front table here.
I'd just like to firstly read a joint statement of the ministers and the heads of delegation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries based on our deliberations over the last couple of days and I quote: We, the ministers and heads of delegation for Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, have completed our three day ministerial meeting to lay the ground work for the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations.
Our meeting followed a week of officials’ level discussions in Canberra from 19 to 24 October. We're pleased to report that over the past weeks we have made significant progress on both component parts of the TPP Agreement, the market access negotiations and negotiations on the Trade and Investment rules which will define and shape and integrate the TPP region once the agreement comes into force.
Over the course of our weekend meeting we have spent a considerable portion of our time in one-to-one discussions. That has allowed us to make further progress in the negotiations on market access for goods, services and investment. We met in a preliminary format to make decisions on a range of issues that will help us set the stage to bring the TPP negotiations to finalisation. We do consider that the shape of an ambitious, comprehensive, high standard and balanced deal is crystallising.
We will continue to focus our efforts and those of our negotiating teams to consult widely at home and work intensely with each other to resolve outstanding issues in order to provide significant economic and strategic benefits for each of us. We now pass the baton, this afternoon, back to our chief negotiators to carry out instructions that we've given following our discussions and deliberations over the last two and half days.
We'll continue to build on the progress we've made at this meeting and we'll meet again in the coming weeks. End of statement.
If I could just before opening to questions to any one of us, make a couple of brief observations as the host's prerogative. It is consisted with the statement I've just read but I'd just like to indicate that in these particular talks, I've felt that the entire focus has gone up several notches. There is a real sense that we are within reach of the finish line and the prize does look very attractive but, of course, in the end, the substance will drive the actual timetable.
If we can achieve more seamless trade between all of these 12 countries which, of course, count for 40 per cent of world GDP and one third of all world trade, then the benefits will be immeasurable. Less regulation, the removal of tariffs, mutual recognition of standards, reducing approval times, all of these types of things will produce very substantial benefits. It will make for a more seamless level of trade and investment between a very big part of the world’s activity. It will lead to strong growth - stronger growth, productivity, jobs and higher living standards in all of our countries. We saw, I thought this weekend, a preparedness to make some of the difficult decisions. Often in the past we have spent a lot of time articulating our own particular positions so that everyone understood just where we were as countries on a whole raft of issues, thousands of issues in the end. But, this weekend clearly, has turned a corner in a very significant way.
We are seeing a great preparedness to make some of the difficult decisions, a willingness to compromise, to get to final decisions. This includes some of the key issues that we've been circling for a long time in the whole IP area and market access and state-owned enterprises and other areas. We are seeing places people are prepared to move providing the rest of the package ends up as they hope. But I would say, in conclusion, that as always that these types of agreements, nothing is decided until everything is decided.
So, we are getting a great sense of where we might end up in a whole host of areas but until we complete the package, nothing is decided until everything is decided. Thank you and we'll take questions - please indicate who you want to respond.
QUESTION: Mr Robb. Greg Earl from the Australian Financial Review. I see in the statement you talk about a meeting in coming weeks but do you hope or expect it'll be a meeting of the leaders of the group in the coming weeks and where do you think that will be?
ANDREW ROBB: I think we've got an opportunity ourselves to meet in APEC and that will condition any consideration of where and when the leaders may next meet on this. There's clearly, in the next three or four months, it's time to start considering when they might again meet to consider how far we've got but it will really be conditioned by, I think, our discussions. There's a lot of work to be done even between now and APEC, which is not far away but given the decisions that will be reached here, this weekend, I think it will - with our negotiators reworking these areas following the guidance we've given - put us in a much better position to see what we advise our respective leaders.
QUESTION: I am Hiroshi Oshmoto from TV Tokyo. I'd like to ask to Mr Robb about intellectual property, especially the releasing of medicine data. Did the participant countries reach any agreement or breakthrough or something about the medicine data? How far do you think you've developed the process of this issue so far?
ANDREW ROBB: Like all issues, this is an area that is particularly sensitive and has involved a very large manner of negotiation. We did make significant progress over the weekend on this and many other issues but as I said earlier, nothing is decided until everything decided. So, we can't give reports on the run. We need to make sure that the package has been decided before we release a lot of detail. Thanks.
QUESTION: I'm Brad Norington from The Australian newspaper which is the national daily of News Corp. My questions relate to Trade and Investment rules, mainly, there's some overlap perhaps on market access. There have been some concerns expressed by critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the Government of Australia and perhaps other nations too, might sacrifice some sovereignty if large corporations in mining or tobacco or toxic materials were able to legally challenge laws made by local legislators that damaged their investment interests but on the pretext of contradicting uniform or open trade.
Are greater litigation rights likely to be conferred on corporations? I'd like to address this to Mr Robb but also the US Trade rep or anyone else who'd like to comment.
ANDREW ROBB: Thanks very much. Look, the fact is that for 30 years now, Australia has progressively engaged with now 28 countries with investment agreements which include an ISDS, Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism; for 30 years and the sun is still coming up every morning, and I think a lot of the statements that have certainly been made in Australia amount to deliberate scaremongering.
Not all of them but a lot of them amount to deliberate scaremongering by those who have, fundamentally, an anti-trade agenda. That is their prerogative but it is frustrating at times that they misrepresent - it's as though this ISDS mechanism has just arrived and it's some new phenomena when in fact it's now been here for over a quarter of a century involved in Australia's relationships with 28 countries around the world and the ISDS has come to take a fairly established form and really our negotiations are not looking to step outside of the established form that in general the ISDS process has taken.
MICHAEL FROMAN, US TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: If I can just answer that, first of all, let me, on behalf of all the TPP ministers, thank Minister Robb and his team for hosting and for their leadership, both here in Sydney and in Canberra before with the chief negotiators' meeting.
And I'll just say on a personal note, Minister Robb is a terrific colleague. He is one of the most effective trade ministers in the world, literally. And is a tireless defender of Australia's national interests at the negotiating table on this and other issues. And to that point I think none of us want to do anything through TPP that would prevent the ability of our governments to regulate in the public interest. And as we approach this issue; as we approach other issues, the work that we're doing is to ensure that our governments can regulate in the public interest as we provide the kind of investment protections that are necessary to ensure strong flows of trade investment around the world.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask to Minister Amari, and Ambassador Froman, who played an important role in this negotiation. How do you evaluate the overall 12 countries' negotiation? The current status of the 12 countries negotiation? And then, also, what do you evaluate the current status of the bilateral talk between US and Japan? And then, what do you expect for the next steps of the bilateral talk? Thank you.
AKIRA AMARI, JAPANESE MINISTER OF STATE FOR ECONOMIC AND FISCAL POLICY: [Japanese]
MICHAEL FROMAN: Just to respond, - first of all, I'd agree very much with the characterisation that Minister Robb made at the meetings overall, that we are within reach of the finish line. These were tremendously productive meetings, both in terms of reaching agreement on certain outstanding issues, narrowing gaps on remaining issues, and giving direction to our chief negotiators and our teams and how to take the next step of the work forward.
And in that regard I think it was a very productive meeting, as well as the bilateral discussions that each of us had on market access and on other issues. And in that regard, I agree largely with Minister Amari that we have made substantial progress over the last several weeks but that there are issues that remain. And that our teams will continue to work with each other on an ongoing basis. Of, in our case, agriculture and autos, for example, to try and bridge the remaining differences.
QUESTION: Matt Siegel from the Reuters news agency; the question is for Ambassador Froman. Following on that last question; given the substantial questions that remain on market access with Japan, is it realistic to talk about this being in the last stages, or the end run of the TPP negotiations? And is the United States satisfied with negotiations on market access; with what it's getting from Japan?
MICHAEL FROMAN: Well, as I've just said, we have made substantial progress, but there certainly are issues that remain. We've not yet reached a final agreement on a market access package. And therefore there is more work to be done before we can say that we're satisfied with market access. Having said that, I think the sense of all of the ministers around the table would be that there is a tremendous sense of momentum in these discussions. That at this meeting even more than at previous meetings, there's a real focus, as Minister Robb said, on finding solutions, trying to bridge gaps that remain, not just repeating the positions of each government. And in that context, I think there's very much a sense that we can see, as Minister Robb said, we're in reach of the finish line. And we can see packages potentially coming together.
Of course nothing is agreed until everything's agreed to. But I think it's fair to say this has been a very important meeting. It's been very successful and it will give renewed momentum, additional momentum to the ongoing work that our chief negotiators and our teams will continue.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask this question to those who represent the emerging market economy and [indistinct] such as Peru, New Zealand or Chile. Our previous interview with you people, or other reporting media - US and Japan have been criticised by other [indistinct]. Saying that because US - Japan is so slow in making progress in market access issue, that's why the whole negotiation doesn't make progress. Having attended this meeting, this time, in Sydney, and observing US and Japan, what is your view right now on the US-Japan - I want to ask this question to other parties. Peru, New Zealand, and Chile please.
ANDRES REBOLLEDO, CHILEAN VICE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thank you very much for the question. I think that first of all we have to stress that it is a very complex negotiation because we are - there are many combinations of negotiations. And in that regard, one of the main elements [inaudible] of Chile is the negotiation with Japan. Because we already have an agreement with most of the countries, but with Japan we have an agreement where we have a space in order to fill in a new market access [indistinct]. But we have made progress. We have met with Japanese negotiators in the last week not only here in Sydney and Canberra but also bilaterally. We really feel that we are close, and we are in another stage vis-à-vis some weeks and months ago. And also we are waiting what will be the final result in the negotiation between USA and Japan. We hope that with that result also we will be able to move forward and to have a new [indistinct] for the rest of the countries.
TIM GROSER, NEW ZEALAND MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY: This is a really important issue, and it's traditional to all of these negotiations of this time, where more than two parties are involved. The only answer I can give you, brutal answer I can give you is that we would be extremely concerned with both the Japanese and the US delegations if they were not meeting privately because power is very important to integrate into a negotiating process. We have an expression in this part of the world: we did not come down in the last shower. Meaning we are not naïve. So the two largest parties - but there's some very other large and important countries, like Mexico and Canada and others in this room too - it is absolutely essential that they explore what I'd call the outer parameters of a deal, provided that the largest parties in a continuous process of discussion with countries like mine, and they are.
To understand and have a very careful appreciation that a sweetheart deal that just is made in Tokyo and Washington, or Mexico City and Washington - whatever the case may be, will cause immense disruption to this negotiation. So this is quite a subtle process. I'm quite comfortable with this. As I said, I'd be very concerned if they weren't doing this on an intense basis. I think both Amari-san and Mike Froman are very well aware in the case of my country, of our acute sensitivities, and we will try and pull this together. But this is the only way it was ever going to be done.
QUESTION: Matt Wade from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. I'd like to ask my question to Mr Robb. Would you be able to be a little bit more specific on the areas where progress has been made, and those areas that have the most to be done in terms of - you know, where you have more work to do?
ANDREW ROBB: Thank you. We reviewed a number of very significant remaining issues, particularly IP which is a very big chapter with a lot of important issues. Still things that are outstanding, to be resolved, but we made good progress in the IP chapter. The state-owned enterprise issue; again, this is a novel section of this agreement. It's designed to be a 21st-century agreement. We are looking to reach an agreement with 12 countries, with all sorts of systems. And so we want a level playing field. That's the bottom line. And everyone is on the same page, as far as that objective is concerned.
So the state-owned enterprises, which we've all got, trying to reach a set of principles that we think is sound, and workable. As being not an easy task, but we've made, again, a lot of progress. Issues on the environment were another important area that we progressed. We are working through a raft of issues. Some of them we - we've made progress on every issue. Let me put it that way. Some of them we resolved. Some of them we got very close to resolution; some are still a fair way to go. But in each case we've given a direction to our negotiators to go back which I think gives some real prospect of finalising. And in addition, we had of course all the bilateral meetings which were an important part - I think probably half this meeting at least was a bilateral meeting.
So we have reached that stage where the market access issues and the progress that I see between the US and Japan is such that we've been able to engage with the US and Japan on market access. Some market access. Others we can't until they're completed. But it's not holding back the market access negotiations. And that I think is true for other countries. And of course we had discussion also on investment matters, some of the rules that would apply in that space and government procurement. But the weekend was comprehensive and we made very good progress, and it was, for me, a very satisfying experience.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name's Yoshioka from NHK. I have a question to Ambassador Froman. In the article for Foreign Affairs magazine you stated: trade and promotion authority would give US trading partners the necessary confidence to put their best, final offers on the table. So if you believe that the TPA is necessary in order to the TPP negotiation - I assume that you need to consult the new Congress that begins January. This seems to have a contradiction to that the 12 countries are aiming to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year. So I'd like to ask you that - please let us know when you think it will be actually possible to conclude the deal, and what kind of process you're going through. Thank you.
MICHAEL FROMAN: I think it will be possible to conclude the deal as soon as we achieve the ambitious, comprehensive and high-standard outcome. That's what we're all working towards. And we're working hard as all the ministers have talked about, both bilaterally for market access, and in the rules to ensure that we achieve that outcome. And that work is continuing apace, and I see no reason why that work can't continue. And that's where the focus of our efforts here, for each of us, is to reach an ambitious, high-standard, comprehensive outcome that we can each ensure receives the necessary support in our domestic political processes.
QUESTION: I was just wanting to ask, regarding some of the comments Ambassador Froman made about the public interest; how does that relate to some of the discussions about tobacco legislation? Separately, I was wondering if Ambassador Froman and Minister Robb had any comments about the upcoming mid-terms and how the passage of that in the US will affect the progress of these discussions going forward?
MICHAEL FROMAN: I was inviting Minister Robb to comment on our politics at home but for some reason, he demurred, so, let me simply say - there is no area of public policy in the United States where there is closer collaboration and co-operation between the executive branch and the legislative branch, than trade policy.
And TPP is a very positive example of that where we've had more than 1500 meetings with our Congress. Individual members; groups of members; staff; committees etcetera throughout the TPP process. Just on TPP. And we rely on them for input throughout the process. We're delighted that a number of staffers, Republican and Democratic from the House and the Senate are here, as well as Congressman Sandy Levine, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is our committee of jurisdiction in the House of Representatives. And that's just indicative of the way that we work closely with Congress to ensure that there is bipartisan involvement and bipartisan support, ultimately for whatever we negotiate. In terms of your first question, we did not discuss that issue here. That is an issue that has - there's a wide range of views of the countries around the table. But it was not an issue that was on the agenda here in Sydney.
ANDREW ROBB: Can I just add my appreciation, that you thought that I might have some reasonable grasp of the US political situation. I have enough trouble with the Australian one. [Laughter] And I don't feel on top of it, really. So I'm sorry I have to disappoint you on that front. Secondly, the US is 10 times or more our size, so we've only had half the consultations. We've had 700 with interested groups and I do feel, notwithstanding the suggestions from certain quarters, who I don't think are enthusiastic about any form of TPP that this is secretive - we, and from what I can see with every other member of this country, along this table that you can't move on negotiations without consulting all the groups in your country about the impact. And of course they respect the trust that we're putting in them, but we need the guidance. And we've had 700 consultations since this process started, on this particular trade agreement and it is fundamental, and I do feel that we are moving that is, Australia, in the context of these negotiations, are moving in lock-step with all of the principal interested parties who are going to be affected by this agreement.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Yuri Hikobori from the Yomiuri Shimbun. My question is for Mr Robb. In one of your statements, you have stated about your efforts in trying to agree with invasive elements of this agreement. How has this taken shape after this round of talks? Thank you.
ANDREW ROBB: Thank you. The range of issues that I referred to before that we have addressed on this occasion I would say that all of the matters that were considered by Ambassador Froman and all my ministerial colleagues is that - every issue, there were basic issues. So we have locked away quite a number of basic issues and we've made substantial progress on most of the rest. So it's why I said at the outset that I do feel that there's a mood in the group of 12.
There's a mood that we are within reach of the finishing line. It's quite a lot of work but we all sort of know one another's views, sensitivities, and we are really into the compromise stage in reaching an agreement. And seeing that is the last question, could I just express my gratitude for one, the commitment - it's a long way to come to Australia for most of the members and there have been a number of people here including especially their negotiators have been here some considerable time. They've been working late into the night on a lot of issues to get things ready for us. And to make sure that we had a very productive meeting. I'd just like to acknowledge also the attitude or the mindset if you like of all my colleagues at the table here that they brought to Sydney.
As I said, it is clearly a step up. It's gone up several notches, several notches in terms of the focus. And the whole mood of the last few days has been one of looking to complete this negotiation. And I think there is a sense of excitement when you look at the totality of even what we have decided. It does hold very material benefits for all of our countries. And I think there's a real awareness that we're at that stage of hopefully delivering it.
So I look forward to the next meeting, and I do thank you all today for showing your interest. And I thank again my colleagues, especially Ambassador Froman in many ways the leadership in terms of - really doing a lot of the leg work about where we all sit within the totality of the negotiation has been by the Ambassador and his senior colleagues, who have provided significant leadership, which they did again, in the course of this weekend.
And we need to very much acknowledge that and thank you for it. So thanks everybody. As we say, have a good day. Thank you.
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