MARIUS BENSON: Steve Ciobo, good morning.
STEVEN CIOBO: Good morning, Marius.
MARIUS BENSON: Do you have any sense of the impact Donald Trump will have on world trade?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well look I think we have to wait and see. The fact is that Donald Trump is not anti-trade. He has made it clear that he's after securing trade deals that are good for American workers, good for American wages, and helps the US deficit situation. And as I've indicated, those are aspirations I share in the Australian context. We're after trade deals that are good for Australian workers, good for Australian exports, good for Australian wages, and ultimately repair our budget, as well.
MARIUS BENSON: But he's anti every trade deal that's been negotiated by the United States.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I think that's perhaps one bridge too far to say. The simple fact is he isn't and, for example, the Australian-US Free Trade Agreement is an agreement that, I'm sure, will continue into the future and has been very successful at boosting Australian exports and trade between Australia and the US.
MARIUS BENSON: Well the TPP is the one in the spotlight at the moment, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Is that a write-off now?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look I've indicated the TPP would seem to be less likely than likely. The fact is, though, that we still have the so-called 'lame duck' session of the congress that needs to transpire. We'll see what ultimately will be the fate of the TPP in that lame duck session but, based on public commentary thus far, it would seem unlikely.
MARIUS BENSON: Well the Republicans hold the numbers in both houses of Congress, and they've got the President incoming. Are ready to write it off?
STEVEN CIOBO: I'm a firm believer that we don't write anything off. Politics can sometimes take an unexpected turn. There still is the lame duck session that needs to be worked through, so we'll just have to wait and see.
MARIUS BENSON: There is clearly, I think you'd agree, a protectionist mood around the world if you look at Donald Trump, if you look at Brexit, if you look in Australia at the votes of Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson, but your words haven't changed. You just keep saying the virtues of trade are self-demonstrated, are demonstrable, and the only thing better than trade is more trade.
STEVEN CIOBO: The fact is that trade does drive jobs. If you look at Australia's economic fortunes, if you look at the way in which our country has had jobs directly tied to the export sector –
MARIUS BENSON: But can I cut in there with the chorus that's going around the world now, and it's being bought by a majority, well not a majority of American votes, a majority of the electoral colleges in the United States, trade, more than it produces jobs produces unemployment, produces Rust Belts.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well that's just not true, and certainly that's not the case in Australia. If you speak, for example, to the farmers across Australia, they're benefiting from our increased agricultural exports throughout the region, particularly China, South Korea, and Japan. If you speak to those who are in the services industries, we've seen a big uptick in services exports from Australia. Now I don't deny that there are examples of where we've seen a manufacturing sector come under real pressure. I don't pretend that's not the case, but the fact is that we are now exporting more than ever, that it's driving economic growth in our country. In fact, in many respects, we have had an export-led resurgence of economic growth in Australia. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is that we continue to export Australian agriculture, Australian services, and Australian goods to the world because they underpin, not only our economy, but the very jobs in so many businesses across this country.
MARIUS BENSON: Can I leave trade there and go to an area that you're also familiar with because of your ministerial responsibilities and negotiations. That's the asylum seekers deal with the United States. Can you say how soon people will be transferred from Nauru and Manus under that deal?
STEVEN CIOBO: The deal is currently being looked at by the United States. They'll make the assessment on those people that are in Nauru and Manus Island. They are subject to US assessment. They're subject to United States Health and Safety background checks, so I can't say definitively when it will happen, but it will be in the not too distant future.
MARIUS BENSON: And again, the Trump factor. He said, "We're going to stop all Muslims coming in until we figure out what the hell's happening here".
STEVEN CIOBO: Well this is the deal that was struck between the Turnbull Government and, of course, the Obama Administration. It's a deal – because you deal with one US Administration at a time. This being put into effect will provide a solution for those who – well an additional third party country option for those who come from Manus and Nauru.
MARIUS BENSON: But will it be rolled is the question? Will it be rolled by Donald Trump?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well you're asking me to crystal-ball gaze, and I don't believe that's the case. What we've got is an agreement with US authorities. We've got a multi-decade history of working closely together. This is a good arrangement. It provides an additional third country option for those that are looking at leaving Manus and Nauru, in addition to their options with Cambodia and PNG, so it's another opportunity to address the legacy that Labor left behind of so many people left in offshore detention.
MARIUS BENSON: And the Government is negotiating fourth, fifth, and sixth country options with Canada, Malaysia, and New Zealand, we understand.
STEVEN CIOBO: I'm not going to get into speculation about other countries that we're talking to. We're always looking for additional opportunities to increase the scope and additional opportunities for those that want to leave Manus and Nauru. But let's be clear, Marius. This is a direct consequence – this is the last area that has required the Coalition to fix. This is the legacy Labor left behind after, of course, their massive failure when it came to Australia's borders.
MARIUS BENSON: Steve Ciobo, thank you very much.
STEVEN CIOBO: Thank you.
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