JOURNALIST: Why was the deal important? What was so necessary? I mean on the sugar front and also on the pesticides front. What was-
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, it’s an early outcome from the very constructive engagement that Indonesia and Australia is having now on trade and investment. We announced it was something that we'd look at doing with President Widodo's visit to Australia earlier this year. And the announcement today is the conclusion, that we've done it. So as I said, it's honouring our commitment to do it. The principle purpose of today was for Minister Lukita and I to continue our discussions on IA-CEPA.
JOURNALIST: It's been a fairly rocky patch. You just had Indonesia take Australia to the World Trade Organisation over paper dumping. You've now got Australia investigating Indonesia over dumping steel rods. You've got the Chief Trade Negotiator saying, "Well, Indonesia only wants a good quality deal rather than a high quality deal that Australia wants. That's the biggest hurdle and expectation."
I mean, this seems to me to suggest that if you're looking at a deal in fast time, that it's not going to as ambitious as originally suspected or hoped.
STEVEN CIOBO: Do you want me to comment on your assumption or? What are you asking?
JOURNALIST: Have you had to change your expectations? Have you had to change your expectations?
STEVEN CIOBO: If you want smooth sailing, then you shouldn't be in politics. If you want smooth sailing, then you shouldn't be involved in international trade. There are always trade irritants. There are always challenges. However, Minister Lukita and I have an excellent working relationship. The trade and investment climate between Australia and Indonesia continues to grow stronger. That's reflected in, one, how regularly Lukita and I are coming together to keep progressing these discussions. We are still ... Let's not forget that this process only fully commenced in March last year, when I with the-then Trade Minister Tom Lembong announced that we'd be recommencing negotiations. If we can successfully conclude a deal, this will be the first deal Indonesia's done for over a decade. So, you know, this is a really important deal between Australia and Indonesia. If we can conclude a good quality deal, it's a real game-changer for our relationship. Given the size of the Indonesian market, given its geographic proximity to Australia, given the projections of where the Indonesian economy will be over the next one or two decades, it's critical for Australia's long-term economic interest, as well as for Indonesia's, that we recast our economic relationship. And what better way to do it than through a comprehensive FTA?
JOURNALIST: Do you concede that it might be a good quality agreement rather than a high quality agreement?
STEVEN CIOBO: I'm not going to get into the semantics. We are going to do a very good deal. Let me rephrase that. It's my aspiration that we are going to do a very good deal that's good for Indonesia, good for Australia, and that reflects the aspirations of both countries.
JOURNALIST: Is there any update on the timing of that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Just, came in this morning, so we're hoping to conclude a deal by late November.
JOURNALIST: See, I thought you changed it. Does that mean that you're closer? Did that project that you're closer?
STEVEN CIOBO: From when I thought from December to November? I'll leave that to you.
JOURNALIST: In terms of the sugar-
STEVEN CIOBO: You're right, you have lost your voice.
JOURNALIST: It’s back down to 5 per cent. Are you confident that with the reduction of the tariff that you'll see sugar being imported into Indonesia at the levels that it was, was back in 2014, 2015?
STEVEN CIOBO: It makes Australia competitive again. We saw export volumes from Australia decline considerably when Thailand enjoyed a 5 per cent tariff and we had an 8 per cent tariff. I note the cane growers, I don't know if you've seen it, the cane growers put out a release today. You've seen it? So, what this does is it puts Australia back on a level playing field with competitors in our region. It's a real shot in the arm for cane growers in Australia, but as I said this morning in the press conference after Lukita and I met, this is a classic win-win. It's good for Australian cane growers and exporters, and it's also good for Indonesian food manufacturers. A more competitive market for them, in terms of Australia and Thailand means, that there's cost savings potentially for them in terms of business imports.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident that it will get back to the levels of 2014-
STEVEN CIOBO: No, all I'm saying is that Australia's competitive again. We saw a decline in trade volumes off the back of there being a tariff differential between Australia and Thailand. Now that it is back to being even, that is very reasonable to assume that Australian growers will recapture market share.
JOURNALIST: Is it possible to elaborate a little bit about the deal you hope to achieve in November?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, it's my aspiration that Australia and Indonesia should be able to conclude a high quality deal, a deal that reflects the opportunities between our two nations to recast our trade investment relationship. One that takes into account Indonesia's aspirations to continue to develop their economy. And one that sees Australia working with Indonesia to grow it as an export market and to provide cheaper and better business imports, which in turn, will also help Indonesia be more competitive.
JOURNALIST: Right. So broader, is the deal?
STEVEN CIOBO: I'm not sure what you're asking.
JOURNALIST: I mean it's not a specific deal. It's just like the broader trade deal between Australia and Indonesia?
STEVEN CIOBO: I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're asking. When you say it's not specific, it's a broader trades deal-
JOURNALIST: It's not specific to one industry, group, sector, something like that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Oh no, no, no. Absolutely not.
STEVEN CIOBO: It's a comprehensive deal. Absolutely.
JOURNALIST: What about Toyota? I think Lukita said today that’s one of the things he would like to see? Toyota Indonesia entering into Australia? Is that something that you'd welcome?
STEVEN CIOBO: Australia doesn't have a domestic car industry. As we've seen it continue to rationalise, of course our domestic car industry has been propped up by tax payers for many many years. Australian consumers have been voting with their feet, as Australian domestically produced vehicles kept losing more and more market share because Australians wanted to buy vehicles manufactured elsewhere. The good news is that I am very focused on trying to find opportunities for those who operate in the automotive supply chain to be able to find opportunities to become suppliers in the region. You know, there might be opportunities to do that with Indonesia. There might be opportunities to do that with Thailand. There might be opportunities to do that with Mexico. It is an area where we have potential. Now, in terms of Indonesia exporting to Australia, that's a commercial decision that they'll need to look at.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you a question?
STEVEN CIOBO: Yeah. Go for it.
JOURNALIST: Related to China. In terms of -
STEVEN CIOBO: Sorry, in terms of what?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, no.
JOURNALIST: In terms of China trying to boost the cost of coal-
STEVEN CIOBO: Coal?
JOURNALIST: Coal - Minister Morrison mentioned that there were some practical issues happening. Have any of those been solved since the weekend?
STEVEN CIOBO: The comments that I made in China ... I raised the discussions with my counterpart Minister Zhong but also initially we were able to speak about the strategic economic dialogue. China made the point that they are seeking to rationalise excess output in their coal industry, they, that is China, recognise there is international demand for them to curb excess output. They hope to do so in a way that balances their own domestic considerations given the significance of the sector as an employer in China. China, specifically, remarked that Australian coal is very good quality coal, very efficient coal, and that they saw a role for Australia’s coal in terms of their domestic consumption in the years ahead. So, we'll just need to keep engaging with China and keep working with them in relation to this issue.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask about the Trans-Pacific Partnership? With the upcoming elections in New Zealand, there is supposed to be some concern that the deal could be derailed or that a deal could be postponed? What's your –
STEVEN CIOBO: Off the back of the New Zealand elections, you mean?
JOURNALIST: Yeah. And some possible opposition in New Zealand to apparent terms of the TPP deal.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, you're sort of asking what if, what if, what if.
JOURNALIST: Yeah, a little bit.
STEVEN CIOBO: Depending on what happens in New Zealand will dictate, obviously, the New Zealand Government's position going forward. I'm not going to speculate about what the election outcome will be. It will be what it will be. From Australia's perspective, I've said consistently, it's my aspiration that we capture benefits of the TPP11. Those benefits, by consequence of the fact of the US withdrawal, have changed the metrics of the deal. That's meant that for the 11 remaining countries, we've had to look again at what the deal will actually look like. If we can arrive at a common point, among the 11 of us, then that'll be terrific. If we can't, well then the deal won't fly. But certainly at this point in time, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, are working very hard to try to conclude a good quality deal.
JOURNALIST: Can you withstand another dropout though?
STEVEN CIOBO: Let's cross that bridge when we get to it.
JOURNALIST: You've must have contingency plans, or there must be talk about it.
STEVEN CIOBO: Let's cross that bridge when we get to it.
JOURNALIST: If other countries started opting to possibly renegotiate the deal as it stands or go to a draft that you might have, would there be room there for Australia to do the same?
STEVEN CIOBO: If other the countries try to what? Renegotiate?
JOURNALIST: Start looking to renegotiate. I mean the draft of what you've got on the table-
STEVEN CIOBO: That's one thing we're doing now. We're-
JOURNALIST: It's still pretty much up in the air?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, no. All 11 countries are having discussions to look at how we have to recast the TPP in a way that all 11 of us can agree. That's precisely the discussions that we're having at the moment. If we can do that, ideally by Denang - terrific. If we can't, we'll have to see what transpires post APEC.
JOURNALIST: What are those negotiations like? Can you elaborate on what you're doing? Is it like phone conversations, conference calls, meetings, direct meetings?
STEVEN CIOBO: We've had a number of regular meetings and obviously both on the ministerial level and also the senior official level. The most recent meeting was among senior officials in Sydney. The next coming meeting, that’s coming up ... Do you remember the dates of that meeting - I don't have actual dates, but in the near future.
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