JACQUIE MACKAY: Steve Ciobo, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, is with us now. Good morning.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good morning. Great to be with you.

JACQUIE MACKAY: Now, with all the excitement over the US deciding to now make Australia exempt from the tariffs on steel and aluminium, tell me about the significance of the signing of this TPP.

STEVEN CIOBO: The TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership as it's called, is a very important trade agreement. Basically, it sees eleven countries come together. We have economic activity worth over $13.7 trillion, not billion, trillion. So very big markets, critical that Australia has preferential market access into those markets, and some real wins, especially for example, in your part of the world, for beef producers. We see, for example, new free trade agreements as part of this TPP, with Canada, with Mexico, just to name two, and that's going to mean that we get preferential market access by getting our beef into those countries more cheaply than we could previously and much more competitively priced.

JACQUIE MACKAY: So how much of a cut in tariffs will beef producers see there?

STEVEN CIOBO: So we'll see a reduction down to zero of the tariffs, so for example, in the case of Canada, over five years a reduction of beef tariffs. So you can understand why compared to, say for example, a country like the United States, which is not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and won't enjoy the same reduction of tariffs over time, they'll have a much higher tariff barrier placed on their beef, that is, US beef going into those markets, whereas Australia won't. And hence you can see why we get the competitive advantage of that.

JACQUIE MACKAY: How much of our beef goes into countries like Canada? I can see why Japan is such a strong trading nation for us there, but what about Canada?

STEVEN CIOBO: You're right. I mean, Japan gets about $2 billion worth of beef that goes into that market. I couldn't off the top of my head tell you what the Canadian amount is. I could certainly find it out, but just don't have it handy off the top of my head, but what I can say with certainty, though, is that, of course, as the tariff is reduced, more Australian beef will have the opportunity to go in there, because it will be more competitively priced. And what we've seen is part of the Coalition's commitment to opening up more markets to Australian exports by putting in place these free trade agreements, we've done it with Korea, with Japan, with China, with Peru, we have a comprehensive update of our agreement with Singapore, and now this Trans-Pacific Partnership and the 10 other countries involved with that, this is all about creating great market access for Australian exports.

JACQUIE MACKAY: What about for other producers in our region, the impact, for instance, on those who are grain producers or cotton growers?

STEVEN CIOBO: Yeah. Well again, we see some terrific access, especially with respect to agri-business generally, but for grains, we see, where we have a reduction in tariffs again over the course of between five and 10 years, we have improved quotas. All of that is going to mean that it's a better opportunity, again, for Australian growers to be able to ship into those markets more competitively.

JACQUIE MACKAY: As I mentioned, there was a lot of excitement in the last few days about the US deciding to now make Australia exempt from the tariffs on steel and aluminium. How difficult was it to get that exemption for Australia?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, this has been an ongoing campaign. We started this in the middle of last year. I flew to the US in June of last year when the United States first initiated the investigation into the steel and aluminium market, and we've been campaigning very heavily since the middle of last year. The President and the Prime Minister reached an understanding on the exemptions at the G20 meeting last year, but of course, we don't just sit on our hands and think, "Okay, the work's done." We've maintained vigilance about this. We've been unrelenting about this, because it's critical for supporting Australian jobs. It's critical for supporting Australian exports. And yes, we're one of the very lucky countries now that have a carve-out from this new US tariff.

JACQUIE MACKAY: President Donald Trump is known to be fairly mercurial to say the least. Are we 100% certain that it's not something that will be revisited down the track?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, I mean we have an understanding, we have a commitment from the President that we'll be exempt. There'll be over the days or weeks ahead a Presidential Proclamation to that effect. So I don't think you can get much more certain than that.

JACQUIE MACKAY: Thanks very much indeed for your time this morning.

STEVEN CIOBO: Great to speak with you.

Media enquiries

  • Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555