ANNA EDWARDS: I wonder if I can start, as you’re there in Beijing, with your assessment of
the Chinese economy. China, of course, is a big trading partner for Australia.
Premier Li was in London last week pledging that there would be no hard landing
for the Chinese economy, what’s your expectation?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, we’ve just had our first strategic economic dialogue with very senior
members of the Chinese government and they gave us a detailed assessment, their
assessment, of the state of play. It was quite a frank one, but it was
optimistic in the sense that they didn’t see any hard landing either and I think
they feel that that the anticipated problems they might have, or the
difficulties, that they are all able to be overcome.
ANNA EDWARDS: Your two countries, China and Australia, a lot of trade goes on already, why
do you need freer trade, what are you hoping to achieve here?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, China is our biggest export market but that’s true for 123 other
countries around the world. We are their 7th biggest export market, so we are,
despite a much smaller size in terms of the number of people, we are important
especially from a resources and energy side of things. We’re looking for a free
trade agreement to give more breadth to that relationship in terms of trade, and
more depth, and to take us to the next stage I suppose to beyond the boom years
in trade in resources and energy and into the next phase of agriculture,
agribusiness, services and a wider relationship with China.
ANNA EDWARDS: And are you going to get this deal done in 2014, what are the sticking
ANDREW ROBB: Well, we are both, I think, getting more and more confident that we can
complete it this year. I met with my counterpart on June 7 and we did
really identify what we call a structural framework that would take us to an
agreement by the end of the year. We talked through that again today with
other senior members of the government and I think it’s quite doable.
There is a political will, I think, on both sides, very much so, and there is
certainly a need. China needs our services and we need their investment,
amongst other things, so there is a great imperative for both of us and
hopefully we can make it happen by the end of the year.
ANNA EDWARDS: And another trade agreement you’re trying to nail down of course, Minister,
is the Trans Pacific Partnership. Update us on what your expectations are; what
the Australian government’s expectations are regarding the timescale on that
ANDREW ROBB: Well I would say that it is probably 80 to 85 per cent there. But of course
the end of every trade agreement is the hard part. So we’re into all the
market access negotiations. I can see how this TPP can be concluded but it
probably will take until the first half of next year. I think politically it is
not going to happen in the US this year because of their mid-term elections and
the politics there.
But there is a window, I think, in the first half of next year. I think
physically we will be there. The political will is around the table. There are
still a lot of negotiations to go on, but I can see a pathway to a conclusion;
and a window, perhaps, in the first half of next year.
ANNA EDWARDS: And on another subject Minister, Australia currently chairs the G20. Your
Prime Minister has taken climate change off the agenda at the G20. Do you
anticipate having to put climate change back on? Do you think the US might apply
some pressure, to try and put climate change back on the G20 agenda?
ANDREW ROBB: Well climate change was never on the G20 agenda. There was a suggestion from
the US that they would like it discussed. We won’t stop anyone discussing any
issue for that matter, so we quite welcome climate change if it was raised by
the US, or by any other country.
But we had particularly wanted this year’s focus to be on growth, sustainable
economic growth driven by, amongst other things, a strong trade and investment
focus; and infrastructure focus. Those things would seem to us to be the
priorities of the G20 countries at this stage; and we wanted everyone focussed
on the immediate issues that they are concerned about, and that they are putting
a lot of effort in to.
So that has been our focus, and we have had a very strong reaction, a
supportive response, to that being the principle focus of the G20. But as I say,
if people want to raise climate change, or any other issue for that matter, we
certainly would not object to that.
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