CHRIS UHLMANN: Japan and Australia's trade relationship emerged in the shadow of the Second
World War and helped to drive the development of the resources industry here.
China is now this nation's number one trading partner, but there are hopes
that the Japanese relationship is about to be supercharged.
Fifty-seven years after his grandfather settled Japan's first trade pact with
Australia, today Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will address both houses of
Parliament and sign a new trade deal.
That deal was brokered by Andrew Robb, the Trade Minister.
Welcome to AM.
ANDREW ROBB: Good morning, Chris.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Andrew Robb, what difference will this trade deal make to the lives of
ANDREW ROBB: This will generate over the next 10, 20, 30 years literally hundreds of
thousands of jobs - and in the end that's what you're in government for, to give
people jobs and peace of mind and security.
The opportunities that this deal will bring extend well beyond agriculture,
and yet it's the best deal Japan's ever done on agriculture or any other thing
for that matter.
But it will go extensively into services, and nearly 80 per cent of our
economy, our whole GDP is services, so it's going to open up all sorts of
opportunities in aged care, financial services, environmental management
services. You name it, any sort of service, that opportunity has now been
presented by this deal.
CHRIS UHLMANN: And obviously it's difficult to do these things, but can you put a figure on
it? In what way do you see trade growing between Australia and Japan over the
next few years?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, just take one - the Meat and Livestock Organisation has done its own
modelling and it showed that, over the next 20 years, $5.5 billion, it'll
increase to $5.5 billion revenue for the beef industry alone.
Now, that's a huge increase in one market and we're going to see these sorts
of agreements in sea food, in horticulture. Horticulture is a fantastic result,
right across dozens of products in horticulture.
CHRIS UHLMANN: And more Japanese investment; you've lifted the threshold from $248 million
to over $1 billion before foreign investment rules are triggered.
ANDREW ROBB: Indeed. Once you get to need a greater trading relationship, you get a
greater investment relationship. History shows us that.
And this billion-dollar threshold reflects the trust and the relationship,
the depth of the relationship and it will encourage, as I think we've seen from
comments from senior Japanese business figures over the last couple of days, it
will encourage significant increases in investment as well.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Now, the deal was essentially settled in April, but we have yet to see the
text of it, even though it will be signed today.
The Opposition is complaining about that. That's a reasonable thing to
complain about, isn't it?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, the thing is these things have to be worked through and legalised and
the translations done. This is the normal practice.
What normally is done is, once we have between governments, agreed on a deal,
it gets signed, then it goes, traditionally it's done, under Labor it did - I
don't know what they're complaining about; they did exactly the same thing that
we're doing with any agreements that they struck.
It then goes to the Parliament; our Parliament, the Japanese parliament; it
then goes through our treaties committee; it is ample opportunity for the Labor
Party, the Greens, everyone else, the public, to review this agreement.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Well, Japan's key interest at the moment is security, both in energy security
and in its military security - we'll come to military in just a moment.
But what about its energy security? Do you see great reason to hope that
we'll see a lot more investment there from Australia into Japan and a lot more
ANDREW ROBB: Well, the market is suggesting, the key players are suggesting that, over the
next 10 years there'll be a need for virtually a new Gorgon, which is 15 million
tonnes of gas, which is our biggest project ever. That'll have to come onto the
market each and every year, a project of that size.
So the opportunities over the next 10 years if we get our cost structure
right are phenomenal, and Japan will be looking for much greater energy and gas
supplies and with the growth that they're now starting to generate in their
economy, the opportunities are tremendous with Japan - and with other countries,
for that matter.
CHRIS UHLMANN: We are looking for new submarines; Japan has some of the best submarine
technology in the world; will there be a military agreement on technology
ANDREW ROBB: Well we're talking to quite a range of countries on submarines. It's often
the future, but of course Japan is technologically, very, very strong. It not
only will help their case with submarines in due course. But immediately, we're
going to see benefits on the electronics front and other things - cheaper prices
for Australian consumers.
CHRIS UHLMANN: So there will be an agreement on submarines?
ANDREW ROBB: No. What I'm saying is, it puts them in a good stead because of their strong
technology position, but we've got a long way to go yet, and we are talking to a
range of countries.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Japan and China's relationship could hardly be worse at the moment, and yet
we've seen the Government here encourage Japan in reinterpreting its pacifist
constitution. Aren't you playing a reasonably dangerous game at the moment?
ANDREW ROBB: Not at all. Not at all. Australia is now so strongly and deeply economically
tied to China, to Japan, to Korea that our interests dictate closer security
with all three countries.
Closer security. Now, that means each and every one of us needs to be in a
position to have strong security agreements between ourselves.
CHRIS UHLMANN: The countries of Europe were deeply economically tied before the First World
War and Julie Bishop has pointed out recently that some of the tensions that
we've seen in the South China Sea echo what we saw before the First World War.
You're not concerned about getting too deeply embroiled with Japan at the
moment, are you?
ANDREW ROBB: No I'm not, because at the same time, we've been deepening our security ties
with Korea and with China. As I said, those close economic links - 51 per cent
of all our exports now go to Korea, Japan and to China. It is in our interest,
our absolute interest, to have peace in the region and the best way in our view
to do that is to have strong security ties for all three countries.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Is that the way the Chinese see it? Because the Chinese news agency Xinhua
says in an editorial that the Japanese PM is using Australia to build a network
against China and that Abe's visit to Australia will create new instability in
the Asia-Pacific region.
ANDREW ROBB: Well that's an editorial position…
CHRIS UHLMANN: Of a government agency.
ANDREW ROBB: Look, the bottom line is that we have to look to our own affairs and adopt
what we think is in the best interest of Australia from the point of view of our
economic position and our security position.
Our view has been, and we've been consistent with this, we are improving the
security ties between all three countries and ourselves and that has, in every
respect I think, helped our economic dealings.
We have got the Korean free trade away; we've got the Japanese one being
signed today and we are well advanced with a free trade agreement with China.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Andrew Robb, finally, you're a senior member of this Government. Are you
comfortable with Australia handing back asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka and the
secrecy surrounding the process?
ANDREW ROBB: I am totally comfortable. If the bottom line is that over the last six years,
we saw 50,000 people come in a most disorganised, costly and disruptive... and
the worst part of it was thousands of people died at sea. There has not been one
death at sea since we changed policy and stopped the boats.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Andrew Robb, thank you.
ANDREW ROBB: Thanks Chris.
- Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
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