ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Minister for Trade is Andrew Robb. I asked him what assurances he could give to allay concerns about the trade negotiations.
ANDREW ROBB: Well, the principle reassurance is that you know we're engaged in this very complicated and extensive exercise to free up trade in goods and services across the region because we want to improve opportunities for jobs and for Australians generally so why would we - is the first question - do something that is not in the national interests? And you know we are in a very deliberative process. It has been over 700 consultations with interested groups within Australia. It's ongoing and we are moving in lock-step, in my view, with the major interest groups across many, many areas that make up this trade agreement.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Will you be negotiating laws and regulations?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, it does set standards. It does set understandings, on things like mutual recognition of standards or qualifications. All of these things, which at the moment are really trade barriers, they can make it possible for this agreement between twelve countries that represent 40 per cent of global GDP and one third of world trade to have a more seamless level of business going, with less regulation, less protection, mutual recognition of standards, reducing approval times. All of these things will reduce cost and make it easier and more seamless to engage in all the sorts of things, not just in goods, and I agree, it's not just about agriculture, it's about so much else. In particular when 80 per cent services make up our GDP and this focus is heavily on a 21st Century agreement which opens up the opportunity for us to engage with those services across the region in the most seamless way.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Can you offer any guarantees this morning that the costs of medicines will not increase as the result of a deal that might be done?
ANDREW ROBB: We're not engaging in an exercise to increase the costs. This is just unfounded scaremongering which is a number of groups who are anti-trade. They're entitled to have that view. But most Australians feel that over the last hundred and fifty years our open economy has meant that we are one of the highest quality standards of living in the world. Those that are opposed to this scheme, for all sorts of reasons, are peddling a lot of misinformation. They're saying pharmacy costs will go up. This is - this is - not any in the intention or the outcome that will occur with this particular 21st Century agreement. We have got a wonderful opportunity to engage with twelve wonderful economies - a third of world trade - in more seamless way. This is good news for Australia in the most significant way.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Minister, what do you consider to be the biggest risk for Australia in this process this weekend?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, well, the biggest risk is for this thing to be stalled. Here's an opportunity we need to - every company's got its sensitivities, as we do - and the biggest risk is that those things prevent this agreement being concluded. Now, this weekend, three days of more consultations hopefully will move us to a point where this thing can be concluded some time next year for the benefit of the region.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's the Federal Minister for Trade Andrew Robb.
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