RICHARD QUEST: The Australian Trade Minister joins me now. The North Korea-South Korea talks taking place in the next 24 hours, coupled with Donald Trump’s potential meeting in the future, which the Administration says is almost likely to happen, how is Australia viewing this? Obviously, positive but with reservations?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, it is positive but this is the first time in a decade or so that we’ve had both leaders sit down so it is a tremendous step forward but it is, you know, we have seen this before. Not to be cynical about it but clearly there’s a large number of steps that need to be fulfilled in order for the rest of the world to have confidence.

RICHARD QUEST: And it’s by no means clear that the announcement that Kim made of closing down the nuclear testing facility – no more testing – that is not the same as denuclearization, and that word was notably absent.

STEVEN CIOBO: I mean, this is from Australia’s perspective, we want to, like, indeed, the rest of the world, want to see denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but it’s got to be verifiable. We’ve got to know for certain that this is happening and that’s going to be, ultimately, where the rubber hits the road.

RICHARD QUEST: TPP.

STEVEN CIOBO: Yes.

RICHARD QUEST: I mean, whatever it’s now called, you get what I’m talking about. I heard your press statements after the US said it was interested, and then said you got the Tweets that it wasn’t.

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure.

RICHARD QUEST: What is your understanding of what America wants with TPP, never mind whether it can get it?

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure. Well my understanding is that the President is open to coming back to the TPP if he can renegotiate a better deal. So that’s what he’s made clear in terms of his Tweets and public comments. I mean, and indeed, he said as much as Davos as well, earlier this year. But, ultimately, for the eleven of us that have done this deal, I mean we have this deal in the bag, what we’re now doing is making sure we can bring it into effect as soon as possible. We can’t throw all this open again to have the United States renegotiate big slabs of text.

RICHARD QUEST: You can’t and you won’t. But then what is the wiggle room? Come on, what is the political fudge that would allow, the fig leaf that would allow US to slide in again, if it’s possible?

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure.

RICHARD QUEST: Maybe it’s not possible.

STEVEN CIOBO: Richard, I can say absolutely, that all of us want the US to come back to the table. I mean, all eleven countries are all committed. In fact, if you even look at how we structured this deal, if I can sue the phrase, ‘we’ve left the sugar on the table’ to try to entice the US to come back to this deal because we recognize not only the trade benefits but the strategic benefits as well across the region. But, ultimately, we have now negotiated for more than twelve months, we’ve got the deal back in the bag, we’re well placed to make sure that all of us can take this forward and be beneficiaries from it. You know, what’s it gonna take? What’s the political fig leaf? I’m not sure there is one. I mean because we can’t reopen vast tracks of market access text, and services text and all the investment texts to be able to accommodate the US.

RICHARD QUEST: But it was always intended that TPP would be available for other countries to join. That was always a-

STEVEN CIOBO: Yep.

RICHARD QUEST: Now, unless it’s going to be an EU arrangement, where you sign up to the Chapters but you have to take what’s already there-

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure.

RICHARD QUEST: - then there needs to be some facility for adapting for new potential entrants.

STEVEN CIOBO: Absolutely, that’s the case and we know there’s a high level of interest from a number of countries that have already spoken publicly about their interests in possibly joining the TPP. As we speak now, we’re having discussions at an officials’ level about what we can do to have accession by other countries to the TPP. But ultimately the framework of the TPP is there. So, yes, we’ll have negotiations around market access but that will be within the existing framework of the TPP-11.

RICHARD QUEST: When we look at China, which of course Australia’s relationship with China is always a fascinating one in terms of trade.

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure.

RICHARD QUEST: You’re not just China’s commodities deliverance point, but at the same time, the trade dispute with the US. Look, on this program in the last few weeks, at the IMF last week, we’ve had numerous Ministers say they are worried about deterioration in world trade. You must be as well.

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure. Of course. I don’t want to see a situation arise where we actually see very significant action and reaction, whether it’s the United States, China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico. I mean there are a host of scenarios that would play out. Now that’s not in anyone’s interests, let’s be very clear. Policy orthodoxy over that last 50 years shows us that more trade leads to more prosperity, and more employment. That is the benefit, the dividend that flows from greater integration from trade and investment. So none of us are interested in having any kind of retaliatory action breaking out on the trade front.

RICHARD QUEST: Good to see you as always.

STEVEN CIOBO: Richard, pleasure.

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