Newsreader: This is Bloomberg Markets: Asia, I'm David Ingles. Officials from eleven of the original twelve TPP countries are meeting in Sydney this week to see if the trade deal can be revived without the United States. Australia is one of those countries trying to salvage this agreement, and to bring it back into force. Our chief international correspondent for South East Asia, Haslinda Amin, has the latest on this and Has, I understand that some in Australia don't like the government stance when it come to this issue?
Correspondent: Well, that's right. Some community groups, and it's yet to be endorsed by the parliament, so big questions on whether it should be pushed through and whether Australia should take a hard stand on that. Let's get perspective from Steven Ciobo, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. He joins us today. Minister Ciobo, good to see you again.
Steven Ciobo: Great to be here.
Correspondent: On TPP, where are we in the negotiations?
Steven Ciobo: Well look, the discussions are ongoing because what I and other ministers wanted to do is make sure that we didn't lose the benefits of the TPP. Now, when the US took its decision to withdraw, it was disappointing but not unexpected. Now we've seen a rallying among the remaining eleven countries to say "Can we still do this deal? Can we get this deal over the line?" Certainly for Australia's perspective we think there's real benefits there if we can, so we're having the discussion.
Correspondent: The question is whether it can be pushed through at the leader's summit in November.
Steven Ciobo: Correct, correct.
Correspondent: Can it?
Steven Ciobo: Well, I mean, this will come down to the work that we're doing right now. We just had a round of very successful discussions in Japan. That's now being followed by a second round of ... actually third round of discussions in Sydney, so we're looking at what we can do.
Correspondent: What are the stumbling blocks?
Steven Ciobo: Well, what we know is that the metrics have changed. I've made this point repeatedly. With the decision by the United States to withdraw, some countries who've given market access on the basis of securing access to the North American market would say, "Well, that's now changed because we're giving this, but we're no longer getting that" and that's understandable, but the point is that for the eleven remaining countries, we're all at the starting line, we've got an agreement in place, so what we now need to do is see can we sustain the agreement in its current form, or a slight variation thereof.
If we suddenly start unpicking all aspects of the agreement, it's going to quickly get much more difficult.
Correspondent: So fair to assume that calls for a renegotiation, the likes of Malaysia, Vietnam. These countries have said they will not take the deal as it stands.
Steven Ciobo: Well the question is how you define renegotiation, and by that what I mean is that there's a recognition that the agreement must, by definition, must change, now that the United States is not in it. So we know it must change, and that's a form of renegotiation. The question is how much renegotiation. Now, Australia's view, and I think, and I don't speak on behalf of New Zealand or Japan, but I would make the observation that I think that Australia, New Zealand, Japan especially, and to a certain extent Singapore, share the view that a minimalist approach to changing the TPP is our best course of action to give us the maximum likelihood of securing a deal.
Correspondent: So given the negotiations you've seen so far, are you confident it can be pushed through by September? Because analysts we talk to say there is no way that will happen.
Steven Ciobo: Well, I certainly don't agree with the statement that there's no way that will happen. Whether or not we'll be able to secure agreement, we'll see in the fullness of time. There are other factors which build into this, including Mexico and Canada renegotiating NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, with the US, because there are implications for NAFTA on TPP, and implications for TPP on NAFTA, so we've got to look at all that.
Correspondent: How closely are you watching NAFTA?
Steven Ciobo: We're taking, obviously, an interest in it. There's many aspects of that renegotiation, as I've said, which will flow across to TPP considerations.
Correspondent: What's your take of the ultimate for trade? Because when I spoke to the foreign minister of Singapore just yesterday, he said that is one of his key concerns, and when I spoke to APEC's Alan Bollard, he said that chances of a trade war have increased. Your take on it?
Steven Ciobo: I certainly wouldn't say the chances of a trade war have increased. I think that's a dramatization of the situation. We all know what the repercussions of a trade war would be, and we know that it would plunge the world into recession. We know that, so that is not a logical course of action for anybody to pursue. From Australia's perspective, we've doubled down on our advocacy and commitment to liberalizing markets. We recognize that what is policy orthodoxy for decades has led to prosperity. In Australia's case we've had 26 years of continuous economic growth. Not solely due to trade liberalization, but trade liberalization has played a key role in that. So we need to find like-minded countries that will work together with us. Singapore is one of them. There's a number of other countries, we're all working to facilitate trade, to help boost trade and investment flows, because fundamentally that's what drives prosperity.
Correspondent: Minister, just touching on NAFTA, because President Trump has said that a NAFTA deal is not possible.
Steven Ciobo: A NAFTA deal is not possible for the US?
Steven Ciobo: They're renegotiating now.
Correspondent: So what happens if a deal is not in sight?
Steven Ciobo: Look, I don't know, Australia is obviously an interested third party.
Correspondent: What implications do you see?
Steven Ciobo: Australia is obviously an interested third party in terms of the NAFTA renegotiations. Ultimately it'll come down to the Canadians, the Mexicans and the US, about what that ultimately looks like. Clearly, there are implications that flow from ... I've already identify that there is linkages, implications between NAFTA and TPP, so we'll likely watch. From my perspective as Australia's Trade Minister, I'm about to lead a delegation to Mexico. We see big opportunities with Mexico. We've just entered and commenced negotiations with Pacific Alliance countries, including obviously Mexico, so I think we've got some good opportunities.
Correspondent: President Trump is speaking right now. He's actually saying that a deal is not possible. Have you been more encouraged or more disheartened by Trump's policies so far?
Steven Ciobo: Look, I'm not going to provide a commentary on President Trump.
Correspondent: What is your take on the policies he's adopted and the messages he's been sending?
Steven Ciobo: Yeah, I'm not going to provide gratuitous commentary on the US administration. President Trump took a series of policies to the last election in the United States. He's now implementing those policies, that's consistent with what he announced prior to the election. I'm Australia's Trade Minister. My focus is on-
Correspondent: There are implications for trade, minister.
Steven Ciobo: Of course there are, of course there are. But my focus-
Correspondent: So you're not concerned by what Trump is saying right now?
Steven Ciobo: My focus is upon maximizing opportunities for Australia, so some doors close, some doors open. I've had a really constructive engaging relationship with USTR Lighthizer. We're seeing opportunities now for Latin America. As I've said, we've commenced negotiations with Pacific Alliance countries, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Chile. We're in negotiations right now with Peru. We've already got a free trade agreement with Chile. We're in negotiations with Hong Kong, with Indonesia. In the fourth quarter of this year, we'll commence negotiations with the European Union. My plate's very full, we've got a lot of opportunities that we're pursuing.
Correspondent: But if anti-globalization sentiment is not the greatest to you, what is?
Steven Ciobo: It's a concern to me, but what I need to deal with is the terrain that's in front of me. There's no point for me as a Member of Parliament ... Let's be honest, I'm a realist. There's no point me wishing and hoping that things might be different to what they are. Things are what they are, so my job is to do several things. One, to be an advocate about the benefits of low from liberalized trade and investment. The second thing that I need to do is to make sure that I've maximized Australia taking advantage of the opportunities, the doors that are opening, for Australia. That's what I'm focused on.
Correspondent: Let’s take a look at the free trade agreement, or at least the hoped-for free trade agreement with India. You're heading to India pretty soon. Your predecessor has said before that he was confident that would happen. It hasn't.
Steven Ciobo: Sure. India of course is a very important market for Australia. It comes down to the way in which you look at these trade deals. I consistently make the point that I am not about securing a deal just for the sake of securing a deal. What I want to do is make sure that we actually get comprehensive high-quality deals. Now, at this point in time-
Correspondent: What exactly are you looking for that India's not giving?
Steven Ciobo: Market access. At this point in time, the opportunity for Australia with India is not to realize the kinds of gains ... and bear in mind this is a two-way street. This flies both ways. Looks like we're not going to be able to realize the kinds of gains that we've looked for. In our trade deals, we want well north of 90% coverage. If we can't get that with India, that's unfortunate, but my focus will be upon us doing great work together bilaterally in a range of different sectors, to secure some good outcomes.
Correspondent: Minister Steven Ciobo, we thank you for your time today. There you have it.
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