Tracy Bowden: Andrew Robb, is this deal going to be done?
Andrew Robb: I'm 80 per cent confident. I haven't certainly reached a point where I think it will happen, but we're literally hours away or it might be another day, who knows, we might have to add some time, but I do feel there is a momentum around the place. There is still – with other countries – still some deal-stoppers which don't affect Australia, but may affect their decision about signing up to this agreement. But on balance, I do feel that we are sort of 80-85 per cent prospect, but that still leaves 15 per cent probability that this won't happen.
Tracy Bowden: Can you describe the atmosphere there? Is it tense?
Andrew Robb: It is very intense, I can tell you. But we are making progress. They are baby steps, unfortunately, and taking quite a while, but I do feel we are getting our message across on a couple of key issues, and the ones that are show-stoppers for us, the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism, the sugar issue and of course the biologics; those three, we are making good progress on all of them, but we haven't got to where we need to be yet.
Tracy Bowden: There are concerns that you're going to trade-off patent extensions for US drug companies to get a better deal for Australian sugar growers is that true?
Andrew Robb: No, it's not a matter of trading off. On all of these things, we do have to find a balance, and there are compromises but there are some issues where we can't justify movement, or we need an outcome like sugar which is significant. Now, sugar, I won't be signing an agreement unless I get what I think is a reasonable outcome. We might not get all that we want, but I want a reasonable outcome.
Tracy Bowden: This process has been shrouded in secrecy. When will we find out the details of this deal?
Andrew Robb: Well, those who are opposed to any trade deals principally, have been making that claim now for a long time. The fact of the matter is it's nonsense; I would not be getting the best deal, I would not be putting us in the best position to extract what we need from this negotiation if we put it out all on the table, but we have consulted in a very comprehensive way and it is absolute nonsense, that all these scare-mongers have been running, that it's private and it's secret. It is the same process that has been followed by every trade negotiation in our history for that matter, including under the Labor Party as it is under the Coalition.
Tracy Bowden: It seems that the US is leading these negotiations. Does Australia really have any clout?
Andrew Robb: Just because America is involved doesn't mean we all tug the forelock to the Americans. This is a deal where we've got to protect our own interests, but if we can collectively make concessions where we reduce the protection and the barriers to trade, not just in everyday goods, but in intellectual property and 21st Century issues of e-commerce and other things, all of these are going to make trade far more seamless, far less costly and across those 12 countries, we are going to turbo-charge growth and job opportunities in every country.
Tracy Bowden: On the ISDS what would you be looking for to be comfortable with that being passed?
Andrew Robb: We are looking for safeguards that allow public policy in health and environment not to be subject to litigation by companies in the future.
Tracy Bowden: Critics point to the Philip Morris plain packaging case which it has been reported the Government has spent $50 million so far defending?
Andrew Robb: Well, that's being run under an ISDS or an Investor State Dispute Settlement scheme that was struck 20, 25 years ago. The modern-day ISDS arrangements that Australia has really championed and been the forerunner of, that we've got in Korea, in China, the Philip Morris case could not occur under those ISDS systems.
Tracy Bowden: And finally Minister, I know you're on the other side of the world, but has anyone been calling, canvassing your opinion on Bronwyn Bishop?
Andrew Robb: No.
Tracy Bowden: If anyone did call, she has apologised, should she stay on as Speaker?
Andrew Robb: Look, in my view she should. There is a finance committee review or inquiry into the circumstances which is quite appropriate, and we should wait for that, and I do feel that Bronwyn has apologised and we should see her in the seat next week.
Tracy Bowden: Andrew Robb, thanks for speaking to 7.30.
Andrew Robb: It is my great pleasure, thank you.
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