SABRA LANE: Australia and ten other nations have signed a long-awaited, sometimes troubled, and now revised Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. It delivers reduced tariffs on Aussie beef exports to Japan and a better deal for our dairy products and sugar in Japan, Canada and Mexico. The Trade Minister Steve Ciobo is on the line from Santiago in Chile and I spoke to him just before the President made his announcement. You’re in Chile signing the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, have other steel exporting countries like Brazil been talking to you about what they’ll do, how they’ll retaliate if the tariffs are slapped on them?
STEVEN CIOBO: I’ve had a number of discussions with my counterparts from different countries over the past week, or thereabouts, including the opportunity to discuss directly with the Mexican Trade Minister and Canadian Trade Minister, here in Santiago, thoughts. Like Australia, everyone is waiting to see the details following this announcement and all of us are, of course, focussed on making sure that we can put our national interest forward.
SABRA LANE: Whatever happens, there is still the chance that this could unleash a trade war. The Federal Opposition says Australia’s anti-dumping laws need to be strengthened, would you consider that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look, the Labor Party’s position on this is, frankly, a little strange. We have a very strong Anti-Dumping Commission, they’ve done very good work, we’ve seen no evidence that the Anti-Dumping Commission is any way, shape or form, falling short. All of a sudden we just have the Labor Party pup up now, and say ‘oh, we need to do something knee-jerk.’ Well that’s not how you develop good policy. What we will continue to do is make sure that the Anti-Dumping Commission is able to use their powers effectively, if we see, and I stress, if we see a diversion of dumped product from other markets into Australia as a result of these tariffs and we’ll only know that in time.
SABRA LANE: On the TPP, Donald Trump dumped it when he came into office. He has since said that he might return to it if he can get a better deal so if he wants in, would this current deal have to be torn up, the whole thing renegotiated? Or do you have a sealed US section that could be unwrapped?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, ultimately, that depends on what it is that the US seeks to pursue in terms of a so-called renegotiation. What we have right now is a very good agreement. We have eleven nations that have come together to pursue more liberalised trade across the Pacific region, eleven countries that represent $13.7 trillion dollars of economic activity. Australia is front and centre in this, we’ve been able, together with Japan and other countries, ensure that we achieve a win-win outcome that’s going to be good for economic growth and good for jobs, so I’m very pleased that we’ve signed this. Now, ultimately, whether the United States chooses to come back to the agreement as it currently stands, and simply seek to have those provisions that were suspended re-applied, we’ll have to see and, ultimately that will be determined by the US approach to re-engaging, if that’s what they choose to do.
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