Brendan Trembath: Minister this was years in the making, what took so long?
Andrew Robb: Well it's 12 countries, lots of different languages, different structures of countries from very developed – the most developed – down to some very developing countries, different cultures.
So trying to get a common set of trading rules right down to very simple things like paperless customs arrangements and telecommunications services and all those things that will help lower the cost and increase the ease of doing business across the region, that's all complicated business, and you're trying to change the systems that have built up over decades, or longer, in all of those countries.
Brendan Trembath: What were those last sticking points?
Andrew Robb: Well, there were different things to different countries. There were problems with the automotive industries with Mexico, the US, Canada and Japan.
There were problems really between ourselves and New Zealand and the smaller economies with the biologics, and that probably held up the negotiations in the last few days by nearly two and a half days, as I negotiated with Mike Froman in the first instance, and then once we had sorted a proposal out, then the other countries looked at it, and in the end thankfully agreed to adopt it.
You had all these sorts of issues swirling around, with some big items for some countries and a lot of pain in some areas, but overall, for every country, enormous opportunities, unbelievable new opportunities across the region.
Brendan Trembath: What will it mean on the ground, here in Australia, for both exporters, importers, and the consumer?
Andrew Robb: Well, there is a very strong deal for our farmers to start with. So from the export of farming – which is being looked at to make up some of the lost ground from the resources boom – to just about every area; the first time we've had rice into Japan for 20 years, we've got it into Mexico for the first time; tariffs across all horticulture eliminated across the board, big increases in cheese in Japan and the US; resources and energy, significant opportunities across a lot of these emerging countries that we haven't been able to get into before, yet they've got enormous resources; wine, elimination across five new markets for our wine; seafood, it just goes on and on.
But then of course through services; education, professional, transport, financial, health services, and mining services, and high-end manufacturing, automotive parts and other things. So all of these opportunities are going to provide benefits, along with the changes and the improvements and rules for e-commerce, or internet-based commerce; a lot of our SMEs are going to be able to penetrate markets across the region in a way they weren't able before.
Brendan Trembath: Minister, there must be some sacrifices though, these trade deals always involve giving up something. What will we lose?
Andrew Robb: Well, we had a level of tariffs of about five per cent. Now a lot of those will go, most of them will go over time, some of them immediately. Now that means that electronic goods and other things, white goods, coming into Australia, will be cheaper for our community. It also means in many cases that the inputs used by our high-end manufacturers to make a final product are also coming in cheaper than they otherwise would - so it makes those manufacturers more competitive.
So both it's pain for some of our existing manufacturers, who may have to transition and change the focus of their business, or increase their investment to become more efficient, whatever it might be - but there are winners and losers. But overwhelmingly, this will drive enormous job growth, which will create - usually in a high-end level of activity - all sorts of wonderful opportunities, even for those who are under pressure, they'll be able to move into other areas and hopefully which are better paying and have got more long-term prospects.
Brendan Trembath: You mentioned medicines earlier, the so-called biologics, what's the state of that agreement?
Andrew Robb: Well this was for us what they call a red-line issue, in other words, something that we could not negotiate any change to our system. And it took a lot of time and effort, but eventually we got to a point which I'd been putting to the Americans in particular for some time, and that is that our system is world-class, we have five years of data protection, but it is in combination with a very robust, perhaps the most robust patent system in the world, and we are providing sufficient protection to encourage a strong growth in our biologics sector, but we're also keeping the lid on prices in a way - through the PBS system - which has got the support of the community. So we were not for changing.
And in the end the Americans agreed that there can be two roads which lead to the same outcome, and as a consequence nothing, nothing, will change in our health system.
Brendan Trembath: On sugar, Australian sugar producers wanted a big, better deal. Can you say today that this is going to give them something that will help them?
Andrew Robb: Well we've got a terrific deal across our farm sector and we did see for the first time in 15 years, growth in the sugar outcome; it's not what we hoped to get, but it is not insignificant. We have been, on average, selling 107,000 tonnes a year for the last 15 years into the United States. We will now, on average, if we continue that same pattern, we will sell 207,000 tonnes a year in the United States - so an extra 100,000 tonnes.
But importantly in the negotiations I was able to get an agreement to increase a set guaranteed percentage of any extra usage that's needed in any year – which happens fairly often – so instead of getting eight per cent of that guaranteed, we'll get 23 per cent.
So the expected increase of a million tonnes over the next three years of usage in the United States, a quarter of that will go to us, that has a lot of scope for increase in the very near future.
Brendan Trembath: The Trade Minister Andrew Robb speaking from the United States.
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