KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me is the Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo. Thanks very much for your time. A momentous day, after many years of negotiations, not without the United States, but still some $14 trillion worth of marketplace, across the eleven nations concerned. When will we get the detail now of the text of the deal?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, the text has been live, available online, Kieran, for some time. And we've also got the side letters that have been published. But look, I mean, I constantly see from certain elements of civil society, from some non-government organisations, who claim these that things are all done in secret in some way that that's a problem. That is, that could not be further from the truth. The fact is that these deals are negotiated with regular and constant contact with peak stakeholder groups, that's how it helps to inform our negotiating position, Kieran, and that's part of what lay behind us being able to do a good deal that's good for Australia. But it'll also, now that it's been signed off, will be referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, they'll undertake a full public enquiry into the process, people will be able to make submissions, there'll be hearings and then ultimately, of course, the Parliament will get to look at any relevant legislation.
KIERAN GILBERT: One of the criticisms as you know, and you've touched on it already, has been the lack of detail out there. You say the text has been out there for some time, that's not what your critics would say on a number of measures, they're still, that's what's creating some of the doubt here, as to whether or not the TPP will have all the benefits that you've asserted.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, Kieran, unfortunately what we see is that there are certain elements that frankly, have an anti-trade agenda and they will invent, if they need to, they will invent information to suit their purposes that simply isn't supported by facts. As a Government, we are absolutely focused on creating trade opportunities for Australia, opening up export markets, because we know if we open up export markets it helps to drive economic growth and it helps to create jobs. This TPP-11 agreement is an important agreement, it's opening up $13.7 trillion of economic activity to Australian businesses to be able to export their goods, their services, to drive investment into these markets and this is going to be good for Australia, Kieran.
KIERAN GILBERT: You must see some irony, as you're in Santiago signing the largest, most significant multilateral deal in many years, the TPP-11, just at the same time, basically the same moments, that President Trump, on a protectionist bent, was signing these new tariffs into law?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, ultimately, Kieran, President Trump you know, has made his announcement about the steel and aluminium tariffs. We're waiting for more flesh on the bone, so to speak, from the US Administration. They're still looking at some of their internal processes and I understand that a WTO, that is, a World Trade Organisation-compliant exemption process, should be up and going by the United States, probably around the middle of next week. So when that happens, we'll be in a position to more closely scrutinise what the process is for Australia and, obviously, as you know, the Prime Minister, myself, others have made very concrete representations to the US Administration about why we should be exempt.
KIERAN GILBERT: One of the individuals, well the person that the President referred to, in terms of overseeing this process of negotiation now over the next two weeks, will be Robert Lighthizer, and he's one of the individuals, is he not, that you've been in discussions with, so our links with him are a decent starting point?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look, Bob Lighthizer and I, USTR, that is US Trade Representative Lighthizer, my counterpart, we've got a really constructive relationship. We've worked together on a number of different initiatives, including Australia's initiative, together with Singapore and Japan, around e-commerce, which we were pleased to initiate at the World Trade Organisation meeting last year. So USTR Lighthizer and I have already been speaking over the past 24 hours. We will continue to speak over the days ahead, and the USTR needs to develop, as I said, a WTO-compliant process, that is a World Trade Organisation-compliant process, so that we know where we, and indeed, every other country, knows where they stand when it comes to complying with the US request for exemptions.
KIERAN GILBERT: One of the arguments that's been made and strongly, I'm told, by General Mattis, the Defense Secretary, relates to, not just the alliance, the military alliance, but also the fact that Australia's role, in terms of the military industrial base within the United States as well, and this has been an argument that's been forcefully put to the President over the last 24-48 hours?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, certainly, Australia and the United States have probably one of the closest, if not the closest, defence ties that can exist. We are a big customer of the United States, we share intelligence, we share a lot of training activities, we've got very strong defence ties. I know that our Defence Minister, Senator Payne, has had conversations directly with Mattis and, of course, as I said, the Prime Minister's spoken to the President, I've spoken to my counterpart USTR Lighthizer, so we'll continue to pursue this. Ultimately, this is about achieving a good outcome for Australia and that's ultimately what we're working towards.
KIERAN GILBERT: Labor's looking at announcing some, that it would be committed to tougher anti-dumping measures. Even if we are exempt from the Trump tariffs, this would still be a wise move, wouldn't it? Because those countries that are hit by the tariffs will presumably be looking for other places to dump their aluminium and steel?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well Kieran, we already have a very strong anti-dumping regime in Australia, we've got one of the most active Anti-Dumping Commissions out of any of the developed economies. We've of course already been working on this, I've had conversation with Senator Zed Seselja who has responsibility for the Anti-Dumping Commission, he and I have spoken about, when initially after this was originally announced by the President. So you know, as a Government, we've already been very forward-leaning on this, I welcome the fact that Labor's playing catch-up, that's great. But you know, Australians do need to know that we have a very active Anti-Dumping Commission, they're very effective at their job. They do a fantastic job. And we are already looking at the way in which they'll operate to ensure we don't see dumped product into Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: To wrap up lets go, just conclude with the TPP. Which of course, Labor had raised doubts whether there was any future in it. And we know that of course, President Trump did pull out so it is different to the original scenario as put under President Obama. But what are the benefits of this 98 per cent tariff removal, do you see, in explicit benefits, for Australian business? Is it all about agriculture?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, it's not all about agriculture but obviously Australia has strong agricultural offensive interests and you know, we pursue those interests, and we have received some fantastic outcomes under the TPP-11. But it's broader than that. It's also the great work that we have in terms of services exports, and in particular, as you know Kieran, we employ a lot of people, our education industry. We've got strong interests in our financial services, and professional services as well as advances manufacturing where we, as a nation, are developing critical mass in this area. So on all of these, we have access now to some $13.7 trillion of economic activity, but I'd also pick up on one point, Kieran. You said Labor raised some doubts, well they did a lot more than that. Labor said that they were going to walk away from this deal, they called it a vanity project of the Prime Minister's. If Labor was in Government right now, consistent with them always getting the big calls wrong, they would have walked away from the TPP-11 and they wouldn't even be here to see Australia benefitting from this agreement like we will now under the Coalition.
KIERAN GILBERT: Just quickly, any numbers as to what you can say what benefit will be to GDP?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we've seen some public modelling that was done by the Peterson Institute for example. But Kieran, as I've said before, I mean, modelling around trade agreements, is inherently, and I stress inherently, inaccurate. It doesn't take into account second-round effects, it doesn't take into account what, you know, you would economically call the head-turning impact of these events, as you see significant growth. I mean, look at for example, ChAFTA, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, we've seen tremendous growth on a whole range of industries, including our wine exports, that's powering jobs in Australia, powering economic growth and you know, that wasn't able to be accommodated in modelling that's done ahead of time. So you know, we will see, as we have with every trade agreement as a nation that we've done, strong economic activity and job creation off the back of it.
KIERAN GILBERT: Trade Minister Steve Ciobo joining us live from Santiago.
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