KIM LANDERS: Australia’s Trade Minister Steve Ciobo joins me on the line now from New York, Minister good morning.
STEVEN CIOBO: Good morning Kim.
KIM LANDERS: President Trump has signed that executive order in the oval office pulling the US out of the TPP. Do you now accept that the trade deal is dead?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well the TPP, including the United States, certainly can’t go forward unless the United States wants to change its mind. But the point is though Kim is that we have an agreement that has made a lot of very big gains. Gains that Australia, Japan, Canada, Mexico and other countries want to keep hold off. Which is why a number of us had a conversation about a possible TPP 12 minus one. In other words, the Trans-Pacific Partnership minus the United States in order to keep hold of the gains that we’ve been able to agree under the TPP as it’s currently formulated.
KIM LANDERS: So how many other countries would be up for a TPP without the United States?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I’ve had conversations with Canada, with Mexico, with Japan, with New Zealand, with Singapore, Malaysia. I know that there’s been conversations that have been had with Chile and with Peru. So there’s quite a number of countries that have an interest in looking to see if we can make a TPP 12 minus one work. Ultimately though, there is a number of competing factors in the international trade space like there always is. President Trump has indicated that he wants to re-negotiate elements of the North America Free Trade Agreement and that will have an impact on Canada and Mexico which in turn, would have an impact in terms of the kind of deal that we could reach under the TPP 12 minus one. So long story short, it’s a moving space but it’s an important space, one that we must continue to pursue to give Aussie exporters the best chance to get preferential global access for Australian exports.
KIM LANDERS: Could China take the place for America, is it as easy as taking one country out and slotting another in?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well the original architect was to enable other countries to join. Certainly I know that Indonesia has expressed a possible interest and there would be scope for China if we were able to reformulate it to be a TPP 12 minus one for countries like Indonesia or China or indeed other countries to consider joining and to join in order to get the benefits that flow as a consequence.
KIM LANDERS: How quickly can Australia work with other countries to try to salvage the TPP?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well as a member of the Coalition, as you know Kim, we are very focused on making sure we continue to pursue good trade deals for Australian exporters. That’s part of the reason why I went to the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Davos this week. I had the chance to have conversations with a long number of countries that are like TPP counterparts, so this is very much a live option and we are pursuing it and it will be the focus of conversations for some time to come.
KIM LANDERS: How much would the TPP without the US be worth to Australia? Do you have any figures on that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Without the United States I don’t Kim and the reason being because that modelling hasn’t been basically done by anybody and the reason being because it was a hypothetical before today and now that it has happened, no doubt it will be looked at. But it is also subject to what ultimately the agreement would look like. So what we want to do though is capture the gains that have been made. The reason it is good for Australia is because it’s an agreement that would see the opportunity for Australians to have access to major markets like Canada and Mexico on a more preferential basis than we currently do. It would see the facilitation of trade. It would see lower compliance costs which are particularly important for small and medium sized Aussie exporters. These are the gains that we want to make sure we keep hold of.
KIM LANDERS: Donald Trump has reversed decades of economic policy in the US, many previous Presidents on both sides of politics have lowered trade barriers. The US is one of Australia’s biggest trading partners, do you have a sense of which of our exports might now suffer because of this?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well we have a trade deficit with the United States, but you know Kim, one of the things that we do for example is that we buy Boeing aircraft from the United States. We have of course a number of Australian companies that supply as part of the global supply chain to the Boeing company in the United States but importantly Kim we also use those Boeings to ferry more tourists than ever before into Australia. This is exactly the kind of web of interrelationships that exist when it comes to trade because we use American businesses like Boeing to power our aircraft and get increased access for tourists who come to Australia and spend their money here and drive employment in Australia and that’s precisely why I and the reason why the Coalition is so focused on driving these trade deals because they are good for Australian workers.
KIM LANDERS: You’ve previously said that the Government wanted to put the legislation to ratify the TPP before the Australian Parliament. Are you going to go ahead and do that now that the US has officially withdrawn?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well what we are going to do Kim is keep that option alive and I tell you what we are not going to do – we are not going to be like Bill Shorten and the Labor Party and walk away from this deal because it requires now a little bit of elbow grease –
KIM LANDERS: But would you put that legislation before the Parliament when Parliament resumes next month or would you wait perhaps until you sort out whether some other countries, as you’ve mentioned like Indonesia or China might want to join?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well it is a case of it being an ongoing discussion so obviously when the time is right, we’ll have a look at the best way forward. But I want to reinforce though Kim, that we are not going to walk away from pursuing high-quality trade deals that are good for Australian exporters and I just want to take this chance to reinforce how poor the leadership is from the Opposition that they would break what has been effectively a bipartisan consensus for decades that has in many respects underpinned Australia’s economic growth. It just reinforces that the Labor Party is too beholden to the Australian Union movement to of course oppose these big trade deals including China, which has underpinned our growth now for quite some time.
KIM LANDERS: Alright Minister thank you very much for speaking with AM.
STEVEN CIOBO: A pleasure thanks.
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