Press conference, Trans Pacific Partnership ministerial talks

Singapore

Subjects: Trans Pacific Partnership

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

25 February 2014

Moderator: We would now like to open the floor to questions. If you have a question you can raise your hand and one of the ushers will pass you a microphone. Can I also remind you that before we begin, can you kindly state your name, the organisation that you represent and to whom the question is addressed?

First question: Thank you for taking the question. My name is Matt Schewel, I am a reporter with inside US Trade, a US publication. I have two questions, the first question, I want to put to Minister Robb of Australia.

You were very clear at the outset of this meeting that in order for Australia to agree on a, to be willing to agree to Investment State Dispute Settlement that you would need to see a strong outcome support market access. I was just wondering specifically with respect to the US, do you have any indication that the US is willing to negotiate additional market access for Australian exports, including sugar?

Second question for Ambassador Fromon, there was a lot of expectation that there might be a concrete outcome from this meeting, like an agreement in principal or an agreement on the main parts of the agreement, was that your goal and why were you not able to achieve that? Thank you.

Minister Robb: Thanks very much for that question. You're right. The Australian government has said it would be prepared to consider on a case by case basis the possible support for an ISDS, Investor State Dispute Settlement procedure. We've said that we're prepared to consider that in the context of TPP provided there is a substantial market access result and other conditions were met. It's not just an issue with the United States – it is a response that we seek collectively from all countries that are involved in this negotiation. We've made, on these issues, substantial progress over the last four days but it's still a work in progress.

Thanks.

Ambassador Froman: Matt, to answer your question, I think this has been a tremendously successful and productive meeting. We've had 12 Ministers and the heads of delegations working intensively and very creatively together, on literally dozens of significant outstanding issues, and working to develop potential landing zones and address the outstanding issues in a way that can create a balanced agreement.

So, I'm very pleased with the results of this meeting. We have all agreed and I think our leaders would very much support the fact that t it is best to keep on focussed on achieving a high-standard ambitious comprehensive agreement and I think the meetings here this week have taken us another step closer to that.

Second question: Thank you. I have a question from (inaudible local media). As a visiting country I understand you are aiming at very high standard goals for this TPP. I would like to ask about momentum, do you think the momentum has been diminished or if so, at which stage in this negotiation, do you feel that the goal to agree to conclude the business here, is delayed, or I would like ask you about your own thoughts on TPP.

Minister Robb: My sense of the four days is that there was a great esprit de corp in the room. There was a united sense of wanting to get the job done to see an outcome. We've been working from early morning until late in the night and Ambassador Froman is a very hard task master, but it's been necessary and it's been welcomed by all the participants to try and endeavour to get through what is an extraordinarily complex negotiation.

A lot of us have been involved in recent times, in bilateral negotiations - this is 12 countries and it just expands the difficulty of the whole project.

I must say, we are still very determined to see a very ambitious market access outcome, that is fundamental to the successful completion of this, but as well, there are many other chapters in this agreement that are critical, are new, in the sense of it being a 21st century agreement.

I can tell you the rest of the world in the trade community are looking at how we conduct this. We are looking for it to be a platform, not only between our 12 countries but to be suitable to be a platform for 21st century trade rules much wider in the region and beyond. So, we all feel a sense of responsibility to do this in a very thorough and effective way and I do feel that the right attitude has been at play over the last four days. I've been very encouraged, but we still have a way to go, but if we can maintain that attitude, and deliver it to the market access question, this will be an outstanding agreement.

Thank you

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