STEVEN CIOBO: Look, we've seen today some comments made by President-elect Trump about some of the order of business that he'll have on his first day in the new administration. From Australia's perspective we still hold very firmly the view that the TPP is a great deal not only for Australia, but for all countries that have signed up to the agreement. It's an agreement that will help to drive regional economic integration. It's a deal that provides good market access for Australian exporters. And so for that reason Australia's view is that we will press ahead with our domestic processes. Obviously the TPP as it currently sits is before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. They'll be undertaking their process – that's a decision for the committee itself and not subject to executive direction. With respect to more broadly what might happen if the United States decides not to join with the TPP – and I would stress that there is quite a length of time to go before that final decision needs to be made – we'd need to cross that bridge when we get to it. Fundamentally as I said, it's a good deal for Australia, we argue a good deal for all 12 countries indeed and so on that basis I just wanted to give those few clarifying remarks.
JOURNALIST: Minister Ciobo, by scrapping the TPP on day one, or saying he would do it, what kind of message does that send to the region and about the approach that President Trump will actually take to free trade?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well look I understand the question but I'm not going to provide a commentary on-
JOURNALIST: But it does send a message to the region?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I mean from Australia's perspective, and for me as Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister, I'm going to continue to pursue good quality free trade agreements that are in our national interest. Good for Australian businesses. What the Americans decide to do, what President-elect Trump decides to do, they're America's decisions and they're his decisions. My focus is upon dealing with the terrain as it currently presented – entering into agreements that are good for Australian exporters.
JOURNALIST: Is it possible to ratify the TPP without the US being involved?
STEVEN CIOBO: By Australia or more broadly?
JOURNALIST: More broadly for it to be successful?
STEVEN CIOBO: So the way that the TPP has been agreed, it does require US domestic ratification for it to come into effect. But there's a 24 month window – a two-year period – for that to happen. We're only about eight or nine months into that period so there is still some period to go. Of course, Australia can still look at ratification domestically, and indeed a number of countries are doing exactly that. New Zealand is very close to domestic ratification, Japan is very close to domestic ratification, a number of other countries have moved forward, including for example, Singapore, which has had Cabinet endorsement but requires Parliamentary ratification. So there are a number of countries that continue to move forward because we know this is a good deal, it helps to drive regional economic integration, and it's a good deal for those countries that have signed up.
JOURNALIST: Is that the hope that if there is domestic ratification across, you know, Australia and New Zealand and all the other countries except for the US, then what's the purpose of that if it won't mean the deal will be signed?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well we've got to just give the Americans time. What it comes down to is the Americans, I think, need to have time to weigh up the pros and the cons further. As I mentioned there is a substantial period of time that can elapse yet. And that gives the Americans time to remain abreast of the various developments with respect to ratification of the TPP. To remain abreast in terms of the different considerations that that might have. So I think we've just got to make sure that we continue on with our process. The 11 other countries are all basically undertaking that course of action. We'll wait to see what the United States does in due course.
JOURNALIST: Say if the United States does pull out – and that's what it looks like they're planning to do - doesn't that just rip the driving force, or the heart, out of this?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well actually to the contrary, you've seen a very strong response from the other member countries of the TPP to say that this is a good deal and we want to continue to move forward with it.
JOURNALIST: And so Labor have now come out and said that we shouldn't pursue ratification and said basically we need to consider more future deals with the US – economic consequences [inaudible]. What do you think of those comments that Jason Clare put out?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well we continue to see the Labor Party trying to walk both sides of the street. Frankly Labor's position on free trade agreements is being to erode Australia's strong position with respect to opening new markets. We continue to see the Labor Party walk away from opportunities for Australian exporters. We continue to see a protectionist approach from Bill Shorten. The kind of protectionism that actually saw One Nation claiming credit for Labor's policy with respect to elements of their engagement with the world. I mean it's a real shame that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party are willing to turn their back on people like Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, these were Labor icons who delivered sound policy for the Labor Party – policy which have been the bedrock for Australia's economic success now for 25 years. And here is Bill Shorten, Jason Clare and others, willing to just rip up these agreements to risk Australian exporters, to risk the jobs that have been created by these world class free trade agreements that the Coalition's been able to put into place.
JOURNALIST: But Mr Ciobo, that criticism that you've just made isn't that exactly what Mr Trump is doing? Isn't he the one who's turning his back on free trade, tearing up agreements, and walking away from them?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well unlike Bill Shorten, I'm not going to engage in gratuitous advice campaign [crosstalk] well look as I said the Labor Party's form is now becoming apparent. Bill Shorten's willing to turn his back on successful Labor icons like Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Is willing to turn his back on the rest of the world and he's willing to jeopardise the economic future and livelihoods of Australian exporters and Australian workers. That's a fundamental fact.
JOURNALIST What would be the cost to Australia if the TPP doesn't go ahead?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well we believe the TPP is a good deal because we know it's going to help to drive Aussie exports and that in turn will help to drive our economy and help to drive jobs. If the TPP doesn't get up, we miss those opportunities. We miss the opportunities that flow from harmonising trade, we miss the opportunities that flow from facilitation of trade across the 12 member counties. That's part of the reason why we've seen such a strong response from those that have signed up to the TPP, saying 'look we still want to go forward with this deal, because we think, and we know that this is a deal that's good for our respective countries.'
JOURNALIST: Is there a dollar figure?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, I'm not going to get into exact dollar figures – no. I mean, there's been 1001 studies about the impact of various trade agreements including the TPP so they're in the public domain.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] seems to be going down this path and focusing on the idea that maybe President-elect Trump won't commit to the promises he made during his campaign. Is that realistic given the comments he made today seem like he's very much headed down that path.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well again I understand the question, but I'm not going to get into commentary about what President-elect Trump might to do. I'm going to focus on what's good for Australia. And the simple fact is that as the TPP agreement currently stands, there's a two-year window for countries to ratify – and that provides opportunity for countries to consider, in the fullness of time, what their positions might be, including the United States.
JOURNALIST: And just to be clear, is it impossible for example for the US to be swapped out and for China to be swapped in?
STEVEN CIOBO: The great thing about the TPP agreement as it's currently structured is that there is opportunity for other countries to join. So for example, if Indonesia wanted to join, or if China wanted to join, there's opportunities, subject to processes, as outlined in the TPP agreement, for them to become part of it. That's part of what would make this agreement even stronger and more beneficial in the future.
JOURNALIST: But without the US, for example, and China would join but not the US, is that technically possible for the TPP to go ahead?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well there are processes that require the agreement of all the parties in the TPP. As I said, as it's currently structured, the US does need to ratify in order for the TPP to come into effect. But who knows, in the fullness of time countries might look at pushing ahead with the TPP with a modest change to the agreement so that it doesn't require the US to ratify. We could look at, for example, with China or Indonesia or another country that wanted to join saying yes we open the door for them signing on to the agreement as well. This is the tremendous opportunity that is presented for Australia and the reason why we should remain engaged, we should remain forward leaning on this. And that's precisely why Bill Shorten's call in saying 'let's drop this and walk away from it' is the wrong call because all it does is consign Australian exporters, the Australian economy, Australian workers to a declining standard of living as a direct consequence of not having access to these global markets.
JOURNALIST: And would Australia welcome that? China being added?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well Australia would welcome as many countries joining the TPP as would like to provided they sign up to the framework that's supplied under the TPP. Obviously the more countries there are, the more markets there are. Bear in mind we already have a free trade agreement with China. The TPP is very broad in this ambition, it covers a range of different areas, including the digital economy and that's part of its key strength as well.
JOURNALIST: So Minister Ciobo, could I just tease out something you said there long window period and you touched on the idea of perhaps going back to renegotiate certain aspects of the bill including the prospect of maybe taking the US out. Do you envisage that this is something that could actually happen? That there will be renegotiations going back reopening up the substance of the agreement?
STEVEN CIOBO: I think we'll have to see what actually happens in the passage of time. The agreement as it currently stands allows 24 months for countries to ratify. We need the United States to ratify in order for the agreement to come into effect. This is why I keep making the point: we need to give the US time. And ultimately as well, obviously the other member countries that agreed to the TPP will continue discussions, will continue discussions around what shape it should take going forward. And we have the option, as I said, of looking to drive the TPP forward without the United States, if that's what came to pass.
JOURNALIST: Do you think perhaps Mr Trump could be persuaded to, if you can, reopen the negotiations to change certain aspects of the TPP to get his support?
STEVEN CIOBO: I think we need to let the new Trump, or the incoming Trump Administration have some time. They haven't yet appointed their US trade rep. They haven't made a number of key appointments. That's precisely why I say, let's have some patience. Let's wait and see what the United States decides to do.
JOURNALIST: Just on domestic matter, a do you support the merged LNP in Queensland continuing as is or is it time for a split?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I'm a member of the LNP so of course I support the party I'm a member of. Final question.
JOURNALIST: And do you agree with George Brandis' comments that the LNP Opposition in Queensland is very, very mediocre?
STEVEN CIOBO: No the Government in Queensland is a very mediocre Labor Government. We continue to see them unfortunately have Queensland's finances go down the drainpipe. What we need is a strong LNP Government in Queensland, I have no doubt that Tim Nicholls will become the next Premier in Queensland. He's got a clear, strong vision of how to take the state forward and that ultimately is going to be a benefit to Queensland. Alright, thanks everybody.
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