ANDREW ROBB: It’s distinctly unhelpful I’ve got to say. There was a statement yesterday afternoon, where the Chinese Government officially said that they do not think that it in anyway reflects the views of the government or the broader community in Australia.
So that is a welcome sign, but nevertheless comments by someone in his position, to say these things is extraordinarily unhelpful I think. It can be misinterpreted, it can colour the attitudes of people we are trying to negotiate with. We’ve been 10 years trying to bring this negotiation to this stage.
ALI MOORE: This is for a free trade agreement between the two countries?
ANDREW ROBB: Exactly, 10 years. They are our biggest trading partner; it would materially advantage the Australian community; in the end really hundreds-of-thousands of jobs if we can get a proper relationship through, and a free trade agreement.
These things are very important and he has done potential damage to the prosperity and the prospects of millions of Australians.
ALI MOORE: So do you think Clive Palmer’s words might be able to be measured in terms of dollars lost?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, I’m hopeful that we will be able to walk through this and go beyond it, and the Chinese won’t hold it against us. But we shouldn’t be in this position in the first place. We shouldn’t have to be wondering whether it will have a material and permanent impact.
ALI MOORE: But Australia is a robust democracy?
ANDREW ROBB: Well we are, but he is a senior member of Parliament, he is one of Australia’s wealthiest men, he stood for Parliament saying that people should trust him to look after their interests. This in no way in my view looks after the interest of the Australian people; it’s an attempt to look after his own business interests.
ALI MOORE: If we can stay on trade after the last Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP negotiations in Singapore, which Australia is playing a key role in, you were confident that the talks on a TPP could be completed by the end of this year, that’s no longer possible is it?
ANDREW ROBB: I don’t think it is to be honest. I think the best opportunity will be in the first half of next year, we are not far away, if there is a political will, I think we could get close to concluding by the end of this year. But the first six months of next year I think provide the best political opportunity that we are likely to see in the United States to get the support of Congress.
ALI MOORE: So how high do you rate the chances of the TPP not going ahead?
ANDREW ROBB: I think we are close to 85-95 per cent there. It is just the politics and I think it’s on the side of being passed next year, so greater than 50%.
ALI MOORE: But you wouldn’t go higher than that?
ANDREW ROBB: I don’t know how much higher frankly.
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