ANDREW ROBB: It’s unprecedented the amount of time, Kieran that has been provided, 90 days [between conclusion of negotiations and signature] and I can assure you that all the organisations that have an interest in this have been poring over this document as they should.
We had the text our in record time and you just mentioned the size of it and it was out I think within around 45 days or less - unprecedented opportunity and the signing of it is just one stage – now every country will go back to their parliamentary systems and take the document and the agreement through public hearings and the parliamentary processes before ultimately this agreement comes into force.
KIERAN GILBERT: What do you say to the World Bank analysis and other critics, the World Bank for instance say that for Australia this TPP will only see 0.7 of a per cent in terms of our GDP by 2030 -that doesn’t seem like a great deal.
ANDREW ROBB: Well a couple of things: we are having a war by modelling almost every day there is another one coming out. The United States Department of Agriculture for instance, they have done some extensive work and their conclusion is that with agriculture, the biggest winner by a country mile will be Australia with a 19 per cent increase by 2025, representing tens of billions of dollars of increased opportunity for Australian farmers, so people should be looking at all these different models. Even the World Bank when you turn it into dollars it’s something like $15 billion dollars a year and even that one is not inconsequential, but finally there are so many parts of this agreement that are hard to model and it is hard to make an assessment of the value – the very significant value – of one set of trading rules across 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. That is going to make trading easier, cheaper, more certain – to try and capture those benefits and capture what it will do with investment, as we saw with the US Free Trade Agreement, which has now tripled between our two countries to over $1.3 trillion dollars since that agreement was struck and people said that it would do nothing at the time so you have to take with a grain of salt some of these models.
KIERAN GILBERT: Trade within the TPP might be made easier as you say but with those that aren’t members it will be made more difficult. Provisions known as the cumulative rules of origin basically punish the TPP members if they source goods from other nations other than those who are members of the TPP, for example some of the analysis is suggesting that Thailand who is not a member, is going to be much worse off because of this arrangement and Vietnam will benefit greatly. Is this not just a preferential arrangement as opposed to a freer trade agreement?
ANDREW ROBB: Here we have 40 per cent of the world’s economy will now have one set of trading rules and in addition to that nearly all the 12 countries involved had agreements with one another at a bilateral level. That entire noodle bowl of rules is now turned into one set of rules and it will provide a great encouragement for countries like Thailand to come and join the TPP but it will stimulate enormously the trade between those 12 countries and it gives them an advantage.
It doesn’t set out to at the same time disadvantage Thailand, Thailand is in the same position as it was the day before this thing comes into force, as it is the day after, except we have gone to another level. The point is that this will provide encouragement – we have seen Indonesia, South Korea, we’ve seen the Philippines, we’ve seen Thailand has shown some interest – the other countries in the region are now looking to see if they can to be a part of this and that will mean the freeing up of trade right across the region and that will be a boon to jobs and growth right across the region.
KIERAN GILBERT: What about China? They are obviously the elephant in the room, the enormous market that is not a part of this. Would they be welcome to join given the TPP is seen as the economic arm of the US’s strategic pivot to Asia, this is the economic pillar of the economic pivot to Asia?
ANDREW ROBB: It is certainly from the Americans’ point of view it does show their continuing interest of being a part of the Asia Pacific region and being focused significantly on how they can help the region improve its prosperity and the quality of life of every citizen across the region but it doesn’t in any way preclude any country including China. But of course a lot of the countries that are not in this but are part of the region are also looking to complete a similar agreement – it might happen this year. We are also involved in that – the regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) that is being struck and if that is completed this year it could well become the basis of joining forces with TPP. Those two agreements, if they come together, we will have in a sense an Asia Pacific free trade zone and the building blocks are there and I do think this will provide the incentive.
I’ve seen it already, even with the World Trade Organisation before Christmas and the fact that the TPP had been concluded was a great impetus to so many to get on their bike and start to do the same thing.
KIERAN GILBERT: A couple of quick questions to finish, only a minute or so left but John Key says he doesn’t think that New Zealand will be sued under the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions. Can you give us a guarantee to our businesses?
ANDREW ROBB: We’ve been saying for a long time in regard to, for instance the tobacco issue and when Philip Morris sought to sue the Australian Government over the labelling issue and of course it lost that case. Now it lost that case using one of the older versions of the ISDS, the pre-2000 version and it has got stronger in terms of protecting public policy on health and environment since then so I am very confident that what is in the TPP, which protects public policy on health and the environment will ensure that we are safe.
KIERAN GILBERT: We’re almost out of time but I just want to get your thoughts on the tax debate. A lot of concerned members of the Liberal Party about the way this is going and a number of back benchers spooked by the GST discussion and whether the so-called bed wetters in marginal seats or those hard heads who don’t want the increase – what do you say to your colleagues as this debate continues and are you comfortable with the way that Mr Morrison is handling it?
ANDREW ROBB: I saw the story which is in this morning papers which suggests that a large number of the back bench are spooked and all the rest – I think is a total beat up to be honest. I was in the Party Room on Tuesday and I can’t remember the GST being raised and the reason I think that it wasn’t raised is because my colleagues understand that we are going through and looking at all the possible alternatives and we are not responding to the scare campaign that Labor is running and I would just say to the community that we are doing the sensible thing and we are not ruling things in or out and my colleagues understand that but in the meantime we have to deal with all the flack that runs around a scare campaign that Labor and the unions are trying to run – it’s politics.
KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Robb thanks for your time
ANDREW ROBB: But we have to get on and get good policy for the country.
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