KIERAN GILBERT: This was concluded during the Prime Minister’s visit to Tokyo but not all the detail released yet. The Opposition says it wants to see the details first.

ANDREW ROBB: Well, it will be put on the table, I think on the 15th July, for all to see. This is consistent with past practice whether you’re talking about Labor Governments or Coalition Governments, this is what we’ve always done. The Parliament then goes to the Treaties Committee where it debates and makes its determination - the parliament has its opportunity. There is nothing different to what’s happened before under Labor so I’m not sure really what their point is.

KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of a free trade deal a number of farm groups wanted you to go further, they’re not happy with it, is that inevitable with any sort of deal done between two countries?

ANDREW ROBB: Well, look, this is by far the most ambitious trade deal Japan has ever done. On top of that we have struck a deal ahead of all of our competitors. Now that hasn’t happened too often in the past I’ve got to say. So, we have a big advantage on two counts.

If we waited to get the 100 per cent deal we would be waiting many more years. We’ve got an outstanding deal on a whole range of agricultural products. Some others, we could have done better but we’ve got the TPP coming up and we expect to do better in other areas, but on balance, this is, as I said, by far the best agreement Japan has ever struck with any country, and it’s going to add literally ten and tens of billions to Australian in revenue and thousands of jobs in the years ahead.

KIERAN GILBERT: You mention the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, that includes 11 countries including the United States. So under that arrangement, if that is struck, and Japan agrees to greater concessions in agriculture will they automatically kick in for us too?

ANDREW ROBB: Yes, well, it’s not automatic. The clauses are not there for automatic but we have been negotiating with them in good faith, all of these things build trust and my sense of the negotiations we’ve been having with Japan in the context of the Trans Pacific Partnership mean that we will get the greater benefits that might accrue to others.

KIERAN GILBERT: On the investment side of this, how significant is that, because of course Japanese investment has been a big part of the Australian economy for a number of decades, but does this open up, even more, with this FTA that is going to be signed today?

ANDREW ROBB:All of these things, it just gives us a broader relationship for the Japanese into Australia and for Australia into Japan. Services open up, the opportunity for Australian companies to set up under Japanese law, all of these issues free up the relationship which will mean more investment because more trade inevitably brings more investment - history tells us that. And with the increase in thresholds from $248 million to over a billion before deals have to go to the Foreign Investment Review Board that will be a further stimulus to investment between the two countries.

KIERAN GILBERT: There is also going to be a defence technology transfer agreement, what is the significance of that? How much are we talking in terms of dollars in that space?

ANDREW ROBB: That is not an agreement that I have been dealing with, I would rather wait and see the final discussions between the two Prime Ministers today, but clearly it will advance our trade between the two countries again. The whole thing is too, all of these things, the more agreements you strike, the more trust you build, the more linkages you develop. This trust issue is very important and all these business people coming with Prime Minister Abe, they are people who are making the decisions about future investment. Japan is growing again and this deal has comes at a very sweet time in that regard, because it will help us secure the significant part of that growth out of Japan. 

KIERAN GILBERT: You talk about trust and I guess that is a fair assessment between Australia and Japan, but inevitably when you’re talking about enhanced cooperation and particularly defence cooperation with Tokyo, Beijing is going to have concerns.  Are you worried about the implications there, particularly when you are in the final stages of trying to secure a free trade agreement with China?

ANDREW ROBB: No, I’m not. Look, the fact is that Australia is now so economically tied to all three countries in the region - South Korea, Japan and China - that it’s in our interests; it dictates that we have to have strong security relationships with all three. And in fact if you look at it, that’s what’s been occurring, we have been enhancing our security relationships and involvement with all three countries. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Have you heard what Hillary Clinton had to say on this recently? In relation to our economic ties with China, that we might have to back away from China as part of our relationship with the United States. Do you give that any credence?

ANDREW ROBB: I disagree. I mean I disagree with that. It’s in our interests to have peace in the region.  And we’re so tied to all three countries – 51 per cent of all our exports now go to either Korea, Japan or China. We have to have strong relationships with all three.  And the best way to get peace in the region is to have strong security arrangements with all three countries.

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