TOM CONNELL: Thanks for your time this morning. Any last-minute conversations with the Administration where you tried to get them over the line?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, Tom, we've known that President Trump, since the inauguration, had intended to have the U.S. withdraw from the TPP. It's a great shame. It's not unexpected, but Australia and quite a number of the other TPP countries are very focused on making sure we still capture the gains that were agreed to under the TPP. It will mean some reformulation and some discussion in relation to that but we are not as a Coalition Government going to walk away from the opportunity to continue growing Australian exports and to continue creating job opportunities for Australians into the future.
TOM CONNELL: When you say no last-minute talks, I know Australia and Japan were trying to get this passed at a parliamentary level, send that signal, but at an official level, talks with the Administration just weren't deemed worth it because of his election promises, basically?
STEVEN CIOBO: It's not a case of not being worth it. Obviously, President Trump has only become the President on Friday, so it's been very early days in his new Administration. I did have a number of conversations with my counterparts from TPP countries as part of the Word Trade Organisation ministerial meeting earlier this week, the chance to meet with, for example, Canada, Mexico, with New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, and others. We did canvass what I call a TPP 12 minus one, in other words, the TPP minus the United States, and wanting to, as I said, keep hold of those gains which will be great for Australia's businesses.
TOM CONNELL: So you're spruiking already the 12 minus one. What are the benefits going to be? Have you done some sums on what the deal is going to be worth with the U.S. and now without it, as well?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, this is a good deal. It's a good deal, Tom, because it provides a standard set of rules, and if we're able to reformulate an agreement and have all 11 countries involved, a good form of common rules that apply across those 11 countries. It would also see a situation where we'd have enhanced Australian access for Aussie exporters into key markets like Canada and Mexico, for example, where we currently don't have a bilateral free trade agreement. It also, of course, would reduce the cost of compliance, and that's really important for Australian small to medium enterprises, which, of course, want lower barriers to trade. And they are the drivers, not only of the Australian economy and of our exports, but also, of course, of employment.
TOM CONNELL: There's a possibility now that Australia does this deal without the U.S., the RCEP as well, that Regional Comprehensive Agreement that China’s pushing that we could be a part of. Is it a concern that the loss of the strategic element of the U.S. in all of this means that, by necessity, Australia is being pushed away from the U.S.?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I'll leave it to others to make commentary about the strategic implications of this, that, or the other. What I'll speak to is my role as Australia's Trade, Tourism, and Investment Minister. Now, being able to open up the world's best market access for Australian goods and services into key markets, like the Coalition was able to do with China, with South Korea and Japan, has been a key driver of economic growth in our country. It's helped to underpin job growth in Australia. And we've seen, for example, Tom, that we are getting record volumes of exports from Australia into those key markets. Now, I'm going to continue to pursue those opportunities with, for example, those 16 countries, including Australia, that are in discussions on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, as well as bilateral deals that I currently have underway, negotiations with, for example, Indonesia.
TOM CONNELL: How do you deal with the U.S.? There is now very firmly and deliberately a protectionist element there going down. How do you as Trade Minister deal with that? Is it quiet urgings on the sidelines? Do you see a change in the Administration, or is this just where we're going to be for the next four years?
STEVEN CIOBO: I'll pull you up a little bit on that, Tom, the reason being because we've had a number of spokespeople for the new Trump Administration, including comments that President Trump himself has made, which indicates that they are also pro-trade. The President wants to have a particular emphasis on bilateral trade deals, whereas in Australia's arsenal we'll look at multilateral, plurilateral, and bilateral trade deals, all big words, but basically what it means is that we'll look at doing deals with multiple countries as well as doing deals one-on-one with another country. So we will look at all of our options to get, as I said, that preferential market access because the fact is that over the past several years under the Coalition, we've been really able to drive growth of Australian exporters, which, in turn, is underpinning employment growth in this country. And we are not going to walk away from creating new job opportunities for more Australians in the export sector.
TOM CONNELL: Just finally, have you read Donald Trump's book The Art of the Deal? It gives away a few of his negotiation tactics.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well you won't be surprised, Tom, to know that you don't sit opposite the President in these discussions. You sit opposite the U.S. trade representative, Lighthizer, and we'll see how that goes. One thing I can guarantee all Australians is that in any discussions that we have, I, together with our negotiators, are absolutely focused on securing the best deal that we can for all Australians.
TOM CONNELL: Alright, Steve Ciobo, Trade Minister. Thanks for your time this morning on Sky News.
STEVEN CIOBO: A pleasure, thanks.
- Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555