ANDREW ROBB: Could I say just before we start proceedings that I would like to extend our sympathy and express solidarity with the people of Canada following the attack on the Parliament there. It was a terrible attack on democracy and that is something I think we agree with your Prime Minister that we will never bow to. And we would appreciate very much Ed [Fast], one for you being here after the event and secondly please also pass on our thoughts and wishes to your delegation and to the Prime Minister and his colleagues.
We have got this meeting I think at a very important time. In so many parts of the world there is a lot of geopolitical instability, we’ve got a lot of economic instability and I do think this agreement is starting to take some real shape. In that way, I do feel it is of such consequence; we are talking about 40 per cent of the world’s GDP and a third of the world’s trade being involved in this agreement. And I do think it will send a signal to so many other parts of the world about the priority of this region in terms of trade and investment for a more seamless involvement for the trade of goods and services, in terms of rules, mutual recognition, common sets of customs arrangements, all of these things are going to increase the efficiency and the opportunities for all of us.
So I must say from the reports that I have had back from my negotiators, who have met this week with your negotiators, there does seem to be a real head of steam, I think a lot of progress is being made. Clearly, I think we are working now to try and conclude this agreement by the end of this year.
That’s the sense I have got from the progress made this week with our negotiators. We can lay down some decisions, move things forward over the next two or three days and then our negotiators are going to have another session as you know to try and pull this thing together as much as we can.
So I do think we are in a very important meeting over the next two or three days and we are at a point where we are trying to make as many final decisions as we can and bring this thing to a conclusion. And I think it will be an enormous fillip for all of our countries and provide individually and collectively a lot more opportunities in the years ahead.
Can I just say from a housekeeping point of view, before I hand over to Mike [Froman] to take the meeting and chair it; we have bi-laterals for much of today, another plenary at the end of it, but we do meet up for pre-dinner drinks at about 6.30pm and go for dinner at 7pm, again it will be a working dinner amongst ourselves and I look forward to spending time with you in that sort of atmosphere.
Could I just show my gratitude to Ambassador Froman, Mike Froman, for agreeing to again chair this session over the next two-an-a-half days. It is a fairly onerous task given often the complexity of the issues and different sensitivities around the table, all the usual things in negotiations and to do it with 12 countries just makes it 12 times harder and Mike you have shown a lot of leadership over the last year or so and we are very grateful for that and we are very grateful for you agreeing again to take the chair over the next couple of days and we look forward to making a lot of progress under your leadership. Can I hand over to you for a couple of words? And again thank everyone for joining us here in Sydney.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman: Thank you very much, Andrew. And thank you for those kind words.
First and foremost, I would like to associate myself with your remarks about what happened in Ottawa and express our deep sympathy and solidarity with Ed Fast, your whole delegation, and the people of Canada -- we’re delighted that you’re here, we’re honored that you’re here. And our thoughts are with your countrymen.
I also want to express our sympathy for the victims of the volcano in Mt. Ontake in Japan, and to Minister Amari and his delegation and countrymen. Again, our deepest sympathies.
Secondly, I want to thank Andrew Robb, his team, and the government and people of Australia for hosting both the chief negotiator meeting in Canberra earlier this week and this Ministerial. Everyone recognises how much work it takes to pull off meetings like this and we’re enormously grateful to Australia for its hospitality and leadership throughout this process.
The last time we all got together in Singapore in May, we mapped out a work plan for the summer and it’s been a very productive summer.
We have been in almost constant negotiations throughout this period with teams meeting in Ottawa, Hanoi, and most recently Canberra.
We’ve been meeting bilaterally, we’ve been meeting in small groups, and everyone has put tremendous effort into resolving remaining issues.
Going into this weekend we’re enjoying a great deal of momentum and focus across the board. It’s up to us to seize that momentum and make sure that this meeting is maximally productive.
The issues left at the end are often times the most challenging but now is the time to start working through those and finding solutions. We’ve got some work to do and the table is set in a way that will allow us to make progress on these difficult, remaining issues.
I want thank all of the teams that have been meeting over the last days and weeks who have teed up this Ministerial to be a very productive Ministerial.
Thanks largely to their efforts, we now have in front of us an excellent opportunity to resolve the outstanding issues where possible, to narrow our differences, and to tee up these issues for our leaders as they see each other in the coming weeks in various places around Asia.
We have a real opportunity here to make progress, significant progress, as we bring TPP closer to a successful conclusion.
And we need to keep in mind what the end result is an agreement as Andrew Robb said involving forty percent of the global economy, a third of global trade, expanding opportunity, unlocking opportunity, for our workers, for our farmers, for our businesses of all sizes and particularly small and medium sized businesses.
It’s an effort that will further the integration of this very important region, the Asia Pacific region, and very importantly it will be an agreement that will help set the rules of the road for this region, and be a very important economic and strategic opportunity.
It is very much within our grasp as Andrew said and I look forward to getting to work with all of you to achieve that objective.
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