Ticky Fullerton: Minister what are the biggest risks to the TPP; is it a backlash from within the US?
Andrew Robb: Yes, many of the Democrats are anti-trade and have been for a long time, and of course it’s a Democrat president so he needs the Republicans, in force, and he needs to bring enough Democrats, so I do think that’s in prospect, but that’s certainly the biggest threat.
Ticky Fullerton: Even if Barack Obama gets his fast tracking powers, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton seems to be demanding that currency manipulation be part of the agreement; that surely is a deal breaker isn’t it?
Andrew Robb: I think so yes. There’s a lot of politics already swirling around in the United States, that’s why this issue needs to be dealt with by the Congress in the next month or two, or otherwise I think it will be derailed by those sorts of claims and counter-claims by all the different candidates running for the presidency.
No one really knows for certain but the fact that they have agreed to a bill in the first instance which will give the president authority to yay or nay the final deal, that’s a big step in itself, and to get to that point I think there must be some reasonable confidence that the numbers ultimately will be there, but there will be a lot of colour and movement in the meantime.
Ticky Fullerton: There’s been a fair amount of criticism over our existing Free Trade Agreement with the United States – now ten years old; has the US done better out of it than we have do you think?
Andrew Robb: Well I keep hearing that too; on the investment front we’ve certainly been the biggest beneficiary and we’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars that have poured into our economy. On the two-way trade side of things, certainly the US have got again about 60 per cent of the increase, but of course we have far more efficient and lower cost equipment coming into Australia which helped us with the boom, and the proceeds of the boom that we’ve experienced over recent years.
Ticky Fullerton: There have also been concerns around secrecy with the negotiations, issues of sovereignty, IP, the PBS; can you understand the cynicism coming from some sectors?
Andrew Robb: No I can’t, I mean the criticism is largely coming from some long-standing opponents of trade; there’s been voices against any agreement going back years – not just this TPP. It’s not secretive but of course the whole text is not available because nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed, so to be putting out bits and pieces over five years, which may or may not end up in the final document, all that’s going to do is be a source of material for those anti-trade groups to worry people and misrepresent.
Ticky Fullerton: Now another development clearly riling the US is Joe Hockey targeting US multi-nationals with a ‘Google tax’, are you feeling any pressure from the US Treasury that might impact on the TPP?
Andrew Robb: No we’re not. Bear in mind that the action being taken by Australia, there’s some domestic action – there’s some $755 million worth of increased tax from some of the domestic policies that we’ve pursued, but also we are walking in lock-step with the G20 countries. There was a resolution at G20 that the world should work towards getting tax paid in the country where the profit is realised, not somewhere else.
Ticky Fullerton: But a profit diversion tax would actually impact the amount of revenue that the United States receives?
Andrew Robb: Well presumably it would in some cases – maybe in a lot of cases – but I just say again that the G20 resolved to try and ensure that tax is paid where the wealth of the product is created and where the profits are made – in that country that they’re made. So we’re not at variance with anyone else.
Ticky Fullerton: So you would stand firm on this then?
Andrew Robb: Without a doubt.
Ticky Fullerton: And finally on Indonesia where I know you’re looking to grow trade as well. If these executions in Bali do go ahead, what will that do to our relationship with Indonesia?
Andrew Robb: I’m reluctant to start to speculate; the thing is that we are still pushing, albeit at the 11th hour as it seems, we are still pushing very hard for clemency and I don’t want to, in any way, compromise that sort of outcome that we are still very aggressively pursuing.
Ticky Fullerton: Andrew Robb thank you very much for joining me.
Andrew Robb: Thanks very much Ticky.
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