MARK BARTON: How was the meeting?
STEVEN CIOBO: Very good.
MARK BARTON: With Liam Fox. What did you talk about?
STEVEN CIOBO: Secretary Fox and I have a really constructive, beneficial relationship. We've had the change to engage now a number of times and both of us I think it's fair to say share big ambitions around what both Australia and the U.K. can do in terms of global trade as well as support for international rules based trading order.
MARK BARTON: Yeah? Will you be signing an FTA as soon as Brexit ends. Have you got pen to paper to, pen ready to sign the paper?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we haven't done the agreement yet but, it's hopefully not too long.
MARK BARTON: Yeah.
STEVEN CIOBO: We're certainly both of us are aspirational in terms of its comprehensiveness, as well as in terms of the quality of the deal. And I think it's fair to say that both of us would like to commence negotiations with the commencement of the interim period. With a view to concluding it throughout that interim period, and hopefully come into entering the force 1st January, 2021.
MARK BARTON: Yeah. From an external point of view, it was good to hear external viewpoints. How do you perceive the processes going, the Brexit process? We have that big hurdle that was overcome last week. Of course, the Trump provisional-
STEVEN CIOBO: Sure.
MARK BARTON: - transition deal was announced. You got a good sort of external viewpoint, you know both sides, you know how it works. How do you think the whole Brexit process is evolving?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said evolving because clearly, this is by order of magnitude a very significant task. So, I certainly know from my conversation with Secretary Fox as well as other conversations I've had with government ministers here in the U.K., that the desire is to try to bed this down as much as possible. But also, for the British people, they don't want huge amounts of upheaval. They want to know that there's an orderly process in place to facilitate this transition. I'm getting those messages from the U.K. government. Now clearly though, it is a bit of a moving feast of those two major parties. There's the U.K. and then there's the EU. But, the fact that there's now more clarity around issues such as for example the interim period, what'll happen post 30 March next year, what happens come 1 January 2021. Just having some of these milestones in place makes a key difference.
MARK BARTON: Let's talk about China, Australia, the U.S, possibility of tariffs. Are you caught between a rock and a hard place? U.S. key security partner China, key trading partner. How difficult does that make Australia's place when you're stuck in between the two with potential tariffs, a tit for tat war underway?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, the U.S. is an ally. China is our major trading partner. That's not unique to Australia to have China as its major trading partner. Indeed, China is for many countries around the world the most important and significant two way trade partner. But Australia's also very pragmatic. We are a country that's been consistent in terms of our principles, enunciation of principles. Adherence as I said to the rules based sort of both on trade, on foreign affairs matters, the functioning of the UN and its various iterations and organs. This is all a key part of how Australia has been a beneficiary over many decades and will continue to be. We'll be principle based, we'll be pragmatic. But, if you look at again, our lived experience, Australia has successfully navigated good and strong relations with China, with Korea, with Japan, with the U.S. They don't always see eye to eye on issues. Indeed, even us, we don't always see eye to eye on issues but, we move through it because we're committed to a mature relationship.
MARK BARTON: Do you think it will spiral. I mean Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary's optimistic the U.S. can reach an agreement with China to avert tariffs. Do you think the worst case scenario will be avoided?
STEVEN CIOBO: We certainly encourage all countries to continue dialogue. And this isn't just about the U.S. and it's not just about China. There is a desire from a number of countries to say well, if you do this, we'll do that, or I shouldn’t say desire actually, let me rephrase that. There has been talk that if you do this, we'll do that. If there's this action, we'll engage in this reaction. Now that's not anybody's interests. Nobody would win from a trade war, it just costs everybody. If that is the prevailing process, the world's been through this before. We saw post the Great Depression when there was widespread action and retaliatory measures that were taken, the depth and the severity of the depression was lengthened, and we don't want to see that kind of situation arise again.
MARK BARTON: How is your relationship with China? There are tensions. There's tensions over political meddling from their side within Australia, the reason why you've got these foreign interference laws. China warning its students of violence against them in Australian universities. Does the increase of what we could call tensions between Australia and China, does that have negative impact on trade, investment between both sides?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, let me pull you up on the assertion you questioned because you said that perceived Chinese influence in Australia was the focus of foreign interference laws, well, that's not the case. We don't want foreign interference into Australia's political landscape regardless of who may or may not be behind it. We see lots of examples around the world or here in the U.K. Lots of examples around the world of where we see other nation states attempting to have influence. And so, this is not about China. This is about Australia saying, we're a sovereign nation, and we reject interference, improper interference from any country regardless. So, I think it's really important to acknowledge that right upfront. But in terms of our trade and investment relationship with China, it's healthy, it's strong, it continues to mature. From time to time we have trade irritancies. Indeed, any two countries do, but we work through it and we've done that repeatedly over the past 24, 36 months since the China Australia free trade agreement came into place.
MARK BARTON: You're resisting there any big involvement in the Belt and Road initiative. Why is that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well again, that's not the case. Australia is, when I was in China only last year, signed up to an MOU between Australia and China for cooperation third countries on belt road initiatives. I think that there's much that the Australian business community can be involved with on Belt Road initiatives. Certainly infrastructure provision, its design, construction, maintenance, management, as well as project financing, these are all areas where Australia has real strength. We've got I.P. in the area, we've got the opportunity to draw upon a number of different experiences that we've had and use that to good effect for our and China's benefit.
MARK BARTON: Really quickly. The CPTPP, I've gotta sort the CP, not just the TPP, of course was signed in Chile. How soon before you get the ratification of at least six signatories?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we're all hopeful that that'll happen before the end of the year. So, there's a lot of benefits that flow from that. I think that there's probably enough domestic processes underway from the 11 countries that will have and we hope, have been in the position for entering the force late this year. If not late this year, then certainly the first quarter of next year we hope.
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