Justin Smith: Minister tell me, how did it feel when you crossed the line on this agreement; are you happy with it? Are there some bits that are still missing or are you happy?
Andrew Robb: No I was very pleased; we are a very open economy so we haven’t had to make huge changes anywhere or sacrifices. We are giving away the small levels of tariffs that we’ve got, but in return we are seeing massive drops in tariffs from these other 11 countries.
We have given greater investment access, but we need the capital to help us stay the best in the world at a lot of things; it has opened up a new age for Australian trade and it is going to benefit us and those other 11 countries for decades to come.
Justin Smith: I guess the criticisms, one of them and let’s just go through the two main ones; one of them was that it was done in secret; do you think that is was particularly secret in the way that it was done?
Andrew Robb: No I reject that; it is a negotiation so you can’t play with your cards out on the table – no poker player listening would do that either – you can’t show your hand to those that you are negotiating with. We have had literally at least 2000 consultations over the last five years with all of the stakeholder groups in the community. Even at this last gathering in Atlanta for six days, there were twenty-odd representatives from all the different areas of the rural community. There were also representatives from the health sector making sure that I didn’t cave into the Americans on the health deal, so we’re in daily contact.
Now they have to keep it quiet, and it is done on the basis that they don’t have it on the front of the newspaper – because nothing is agreed until everything is agreed – but unless we find out what they need and how they might be affected by negotiations we think we might conclude, we are really lost; we need to know what is going to happen so we are in constant contact, and this secrecy thing is just anti-trade groups who have found some bogeyman; it is not secret.
Justin Smith: I guess you also keep it secret because if the whole thing goes belly-up you don’t want the whole world to know about it, did you ever have that fear?
Andrew Robb: No, we keep it secret because we don’t want to show how little or how far we can really go in a negotiation. It is like any other business negotiation, or people trying to buy a house; they don’t want to tell how much they can spend all up. Now that is exactly the same principle that applies with these negotiations; we have to look after Australia’s interests.
Justin Smith: The unions were talking about wages and conditions, they had some concerns there. Have you tried to reassure them on that?
Andrew Robb: Well, I am sure this will be the CFMEU who again, I see in the newspapers this morning, have been pinged for more corruption and more bullying and more threats. They have been trying to kill the China deal and it looks like they are going to set out and kill this one because they have a real problem with their reputation.
Justin Smith: They do, I agree and I think most people would back you on that but as far as wages and conditions go, are you happy with this deal?
Andrew Robb: Nothing has changed. They make the claim and give people concern before they even know the details; they didn’t bother to come and ask us, they just went straight on radio again and made all these claims. We can tell them, we can show them and the text will be out soon. It is another agenda they’ve got and people see through it, so it doesn’t really fuss me, but I can tell you that workers are very much at the heart of what we are doing; we are trying to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and that is when people get peace of mind and security – when they have a job.
Justin Smith: And for the rest of us who are not part of a union or a political party, when will we see this kick in?
Andrew Robb: We have got to go through legal proceedings to make sure that every line in every different language is accurate. There’s about five different languages across the 12 countries and we’ve got to make sure that every line in one language, is identical to the same line in another. We’ve been working on that as we’ve been going, but that will take another few weeks yet. Then we sign it, then it goes back to all the parliaments of the 12 countries.
But even with the China deal for instance, that’s not approved yet – hopefully by Christmas it’ll be done and in place – but I was up there just a couple of weeks ago with 35 business people, and the sense of anticipation and the deals that are being done in anticipation of the China deal are huge, and this will happen with the TPP; there will be a lot of business people looking at what the detail is and then reaching out into a lot of these countries, starting to build relationships, so that when it does take place, they are on the ground floor.
Justin Smith: It’s good talking Andrew, thank you very much.
Andrew Robb: Thanks Justin.
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