PATRICIA KARVELAS: The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and joins us tonight, welcome to the program.
STEVEN CIOBO: Good to be with you Patricia.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So yesterday you weren't ruling out joining any complaints made by the EU to the WTO, today the Prime Minister has ruled it out, what's changed?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, what I said yesterday in relation to a broader question was whether or not Australia would look at options, and today the Prime Minister's made very clear that, given we are not going to be affected by this tariff that we wouldn't be a part of WTO action.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: And, okay, but clearly we're concerned about this decision by the United States given we are very much in favour of free trade and in favour of people meeting their obligations, so we still have an interest in this don't we?
STEVEN CIOBO: Of course, we always have an interest in any trade related developments, I mean Australia has been a very significant beneficiary of many of the decisions that have been taken, of a very pro free trade agenda. As a Government we've pursued free trade outcomes with China, with Korea, with Japan, with Singapore, with Peru, and now, of course, the TPP-11, so we take a very strong interest in, as much as we possibly can in opening up more market access for Australian exporters.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: We still could be affected by dumped products couldn't we?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look, there is a real risk of that, and this is something that I've been discussing with Senator Zed Seselja, to develop a plan of action, so to speak, of the Australian Anti-Dumping Commission. A couple of points in relations to this Patricia, the first is we have a very strong Anti-Dumping Commission that already operates in Australia, the Anti-Dumping Commission has been strengthened by the Coalition, we've put in place a range of new initiatives to assist the Anti-Dumping Commission, including extra resourcing. The Anti-Dumping Commission works very effectively and I'm very confident that they are well placed to make sure that any threat that might come from dumped, imported product into Australia can be stopped before it becomes a problem.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Labor is calling for the penalties for dumping products to be increased, are the rules of the Anti-Dumping Commission as it is strong enough as being a deterrent, are you prepared to look at higher penalties?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, it's certainly strong enough now, the Anti-Dumping Commission works very effectively, as I said. As a Coalition we've strengthened it, we've given it additional resources. You know, look, I don't blame Labor for trying to get themselves into some of the print media inches and newspaper articles or electronic media, they've got a job to do, they're an opposition, they wanna play catch up politics and say 'Look this is our great idea', that's fantastic. But no one credibly says there's any problem with the operation of the Anti-Dumping Commission right now, it does a good job, it's been very effective. There are a host of different anti-dumping measures that are in place already in relation to, and in the main, I would stress in relation to steel products, and they do very good job.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Are there any clauses in the tariff exemption agreement that we're signing that preclude Australia from joining complaints to the WTO?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well it's not a tariff exemption agreement, Patricia, so I'll just pull you up on that. What there is, is an exemption for Australia from the President's proclamation in relation to the imposition of the tariffs. We sort of get into the weeds very quickly but the US is still working on exactly what that process is and what that will look like. And, in fact, the President himself made reference to them developing that legal framework within the United States when he tweeted about this on the weekend.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But I asked you whether that agreement that you talk about, is there anything in that, that says that we would lose the exemption if we did join any complaint?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, let me answer your question directly and say no there's not. But let me just do into a little bit more detail, which is to say that there isn't an agreement. There is not an agreement in terms of a legal contract or something like that, what there is, is an exemption by the President to Australia, with respect to the imposition of those tariffs. I'm not trying to be tricky, but it is important to be precise about these matters and so there's not an agreement which would contain anything because what there is, is an exemption for Australia.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: If you're just tuning in, my guest is Steve Ciobo, he's the Trade Minister and our number is --- if you wanna text in. How does the international community prevent the EU and the US imposing tariffs on one another, leading to a global trade war?
STEVEN CIOBO: Sorry to clarify, what do you mean by that?
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well, how do you then, be an active participant in making this argument that there shouldn't be a trade war? What are you gonna do?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well through the World Trade Organization, Australia adopts a very forward leading posture in relation to the benefits of liberalized trade. I've done op-eds about it, as a Government we constantly speak about it. We also practice what we preach in terms of the free trade agreements that we pursue. And Patricia, Australia has now, under my stewardship as Trade Minister, the most active agenda for trade that our country's ever seen and we have free trade agreements under negotiation with countries as diverse as Indonesia, Hong Kong, we hope in the near future the UK and the European Union. We're in negotiations with the Pacific Alliance, we've had discussions ongoing with India. You know, we have a very full agenda of trying to make sure that Australian exporters get preferential market access into global market places because it is critical to drive economic growth and to drive jobs in this country.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Will the details of the agreement be made public?
STEVEN CIOBO: Which agreement?
PATRICIA KARVELAS: With the US, you know the exemption?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, again, Patricia, this is the point I'm making there isn't an agreement. You keep coming back to this issue about there being some kind of agreement or contract, there's not. What there is, is an exemption for Australia from the President's proclamation about the aluminium and steel tariffs.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: And will the details of that be made public?
STEVEN CIOBO: The details of the President's announcement?
PATRICIA KARVELAS: The details of our particular exemption, I know you're sort of getting in the weeds, it was your language I'm quoting.
STEVEN CIOBO: Yeah.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But there is an exemption ...
STEVEN CIOBO: Correct.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: And there is no doubt some detail around the way an exemption like that operates?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well there's the President's proclamation, which imposes the tariffs, and then there'll be Australia's exemption from that. Now I'll be having conversations with my counterpart, US Trade Representative Ambassador Lighthizer. We've had a number of conversations over the past week or so and we will have more over the next several days as the US works that through their internal system in the US. But very specifically, your question goes to internal US processes, and I am not an expert on internal US processes.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Is this about, I mean essential I suppose at the heart of my question if we'd strip it back from all the kind of fancy government language, is just a question around transparency. You know what I'm asking here, I mean there have been questions and the Government's been trying, the Australian Government's been trying to say there's no special security arrangement. But there are concerns and question around what are the bigger implications of being made exempt from such a big decision that the US has made? What does it mean for us and security and the alliance and our arrangements. That is the kind of transparency I'm asking, that's the heart of my question and how much detail will we get.
STEVEN CIOBO: So let's cut to the chase, and I don't wanna verbal you so pull me up if you disagree with my summation, but you're effectively asking me, 'look Steve, can we take at face value the assurances that you, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister have given that there are not, there is not a quid pro quo so to speak for this exemption'. Is that a reasonable summation?
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Pretty much.
STEVEN CIOBO: There is not any quid pro quo. The President's tweet makes reference to this process that you and I have just been talking about. Internal domestic US process for the exemption for Australia. Obviously, Australia and the United States have a long, rich, broad and deep trade investment relationship. What we have now, thanks to the Prime Minister securing the exemption from the US President, is an exemption from the imposition of the tariffs by the United States. This is important. It's important because it helps to ensure that we retain Australian jobs, it helps to ensure we retain jobs in America, which is why it was a win-win outcome. It helps to ensure that the Australian economy continues to grow, as well as a very concrete demonstration of the strong bonds between our two countries.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: New Zealand released details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement and an analysis that says it will boost the New Zealand economy by as much as $3.7 billion Australian dollars. Now that Australia has signed the agreement, how much is the TPP worth to the Australian economy?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we've released, the first thing is, we've released the text of the TPP and in fact, the original TPP agreement, the TPP-12 for lack of a better term, was released quite some time ago. We've also released the text in relation to side letters under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so all of that's in the public domain. Plus, we're about to have a Joint Standing Committee treaty, Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So we'll have a full public hearing including witnesses, people will be able to make submissions, there'll be public hearing days. So, let's not pretend that there's not transparency in relation to this, there is total transparency in relation to this. In terms of economic modelling around this, and I've said this on numerous occasions Patricia, economic modelling on trade agreements is at best, guess work. And the reason at best its guess work, and you see this even with the New Zealand modelling, a very big range that they say could be the economic impact, and the reason it's at best guess work, is because it doesn't take into account second round effects, it also doesn't take into account what I call head turning impacts. And by 'head-turning' impacts I mean for example we've seen with the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the Korea Australia Free Trade Agreement that there have been massive increases in the exports of particular products because of that preferential market access that we've got. The kind of boost in product exports that simply was not and would not be captured by economic modelling.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just before I let you go, there's a story, which we're certainly gonna talk about tonight here about the ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr hating journalists and wanting to move away from the mainstream media. Do you hate journalists?
STEVEN CIOBO: There might be one or two but that's all.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Who are they?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, Patricia.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Am I one of them?
STEVEN CIOBO: I won't. No, I wouldn't be chatting to you if you were. No look Patricia someone once said to me, and I've used it repeatedly ever since, they said a Politian complaining about the media is like a ship's captain complaining about the sea. The simple fact is that it is part and parcel of modern day life, in fact it's a critical part of accountability and transparency when it comes to politics. Journalists play a critical role in ensuring that the public is informed about what's going on. Let's be frank, very often the media play a critical role in holding to account people who have done the wrong thing, or attempted to hoodwink aspects of a decision, or the population, or corruption, or any of those types of things. So they play a very important role in the Australian political landscape.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Look, that's something we do agree on. I don't usually share opinions but I certainly am gonna defend my own people, and that's the journalists of Australia. Steve Ciobo, thanks for coming on the show.
STEVEN CIOBO: Good to be with you.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: That's the minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steve Ciobo.
- Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
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