Ross Greenwood: It must give you great satisfaction personally to see that this has come about, because you have expended enormous amounts of energy trying to get this across the line, haven't you?

Andrew Robb: It is very pleasing I've got to say. You can see that it will not just have an impact in the next year or two or three or four, but it is going to set up Australia – along with the other trifecta of agreements with China, Japan and South Korea – for decades to come I can assure you.

Ross Greenwood: A lot of people don't even understand why it is that a free trade deal with anybody has any benefit to their lives. A lot of people might sit there and say it exposes our manufacturing industries to the international environment and more competition. So in other words, people wonder whether more is taken than given in Australia. Why is it that it is in Australia's interest to have these type of deals?

Andrew Robb: Firstly because it gives us access to these countries in a way that many other countries haven't got; it's giving us preferential access for our exports. And it's not just goods like agriculture, but our services. We're the strongest country in this region for services; we’re a world class country, we are part of the developed world and a lot of the countries around us included in this trade agreement, are emerging economies.

Through this deal we have preferential access to their markets, which will lead to relationships and trust and opportunities as they emerge over the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years as power houses. That will create jobs and opportunity and trade; the more things we sell, the more jobs that are created back at home and that's the essence of these trade deals.

Ross Greenwood: So in other words we talk about Australia's economy being in transition from that mining development boom – which has now ended, it's well and truly over – and then trying to find out what is next. In other words, this is almost what is next isn't it; and that is the opportunities for Australian manufacturers, for Australian farmers, for Australian producers of all sorts, but also for services companies; aged care, education, health care, these types of things to actually go out to the world, sell their goods and services in other parts of the world.

Andrew Robb: That's absolutely spot-on. The thing is that a couple of years ago when we won office, the big part of our economic plan, was to seek to conclude a lot of these agreements because we want to move away from a resources focus, to try and diversify our economy into all those areas you've mentioned; from aged care, anything to do with health, anything to do with education, water management, you name it.

We are seen in the region as world class, as gold standard; our brand is very strong. Now what these agreements do with a lot of the developing countries that historically don't like to give access on services, they progressively give access on goods. The last thing they give access to, is to our aged care services, our health services, our education services. Now these agreements are opening up the door in Vietnam, in Malaysia, in Chile, in Peru, in Mexico. Some of these are really big countries, and we’re not only setting up the immediate opportunities with Canada and the United States and Japan, et cetera, but we are laying the ground work for decades of opportunity with all of these emerging economies on our door step.

Ross Greenwood: Is one of the potential obstacles to these deals the rather laconic Australian attitude of, well I don't know whether anybody would actually sort of take any prize in what I do; I'm into aged care and we're doing well here in Australia and we are going to stay here in Australia because we don't really understand what might happen in China or what might happen in Japan. But with those rapidly aging populations that they have in those countries, of course the Australian know-how, the Australian systems means that every Australian, anybody with a small amount of entrepreneurial spirit, should get their backside into a plane and go and see what's on offer in those countries.

Andrew Robb: That's the thing, and I know because I’ve been in business at different times. 20 years ago, a business in Melbourne thinking of expanding, would look to Sydney and they would be thinking long and hard about whether they could support a new arm of their business in Sydney, whether it be in manufacturing or anything else, any other small or medium business.

Now that decision back then wasn’t easy because it was costly to fly, and there wasn't the Internet. I can tell you now, the decision for a small business in Melbourne, whether it be aged care operators or a small health service or medical devices company, whatever it might be, now the decision whether they go to Guangzhou or to Tokyo or to Seoul or to parts of Vietnam, that decision is not much different than from that company going from Melbourne to Sydney. That’s because of the digital age, because of the great connectivity we have now; there's nearly 35,000 aircraft in the air any minute of any day, and that's bringing down the cost of air travel and it's making us very connected.

We are in the same time zone with Asia, and these countries have now got an emerging middle class that can afford – and they want – our goods. They want our premium services too so even though we pay high wages, if we get the top one per cent, or two per cent of the service offerings and the goods offering in terms of the premium quality, we will get top price; it will reward the cost of us doing business, and the opportunities now are just extraordinary I tell you. The next 10, 20, 30 years can be spectacular for Australia.

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