RAMY INOCENCIO: Let's look at the potential fallout with Australia's Trade, Tourism, and Investment Minister. That is Steven Ciobo. He joins us exclusively from Tokyo. Minister, good to speak with you here. We often talk about how Australia is insulated from global comings and goings, but of course when it deals with China, there are clearly links here. What is the biggest damage that could possibly be done that you're looking at now

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, obviously, you'll understand I'm not gonna get into sort of all types of hypotheticals. My focus though is how Australia's interests are best served by the trade deals we're doing. We've got the most ambitious trade agenda in our nation's history that's underway at the moment. But, of course, we watch with great interest what's happening. We don't want to see a break out or a further escalation of trade tensions between the U.S. and China. That would be, not terrific for global growth and have quite a dampening effect. We've already seen some of the implications off the back of the 232 investigation and the subsequent imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs. Then we've seen the consequence of some of the retaliatory tariffs that have been put in place, and hopefully we won't see a further break out of this type of activity.

RAMY INOCENCIO: With the relationship between Australia and the United States being as close as it is, have you or your fellow colleagues reached out to the White House for an 11th hour plea to try to stop this

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I speak with my counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer pretty regularly. We've got a terrific working relationship. Look, ultimately, this is a domestic decision for the U.S. in terms of President Trump's vision about the now Section 232 investigation on automobiles as well as what they might do under the Section 301 investigation on intellectual property. We've seen the President's announcement of potentially $34 billion worth of tariff impositions with a potential sixteen further billion. We've also seen China indicate that they will retaliate. This type of dynamic, if it comes to pass, is unfortunately not good for global growth. We will see an impact from that. Now the extent to which that impact actually is either mitigated or we feel the full force of it, we don't know and only time will tell. But from Australia's perspective, I'm trying to make sure that we continue to diversify as much as we can, all of our trade interests, and that's been about bringing down of course our trade barriers and pursuing really high-ambition good quality deals like the TPP-11. This week here in Japan, I've of course been talking about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as well.

YVONNE MAN: Minister Ciobo, let's talk about that. You're in Tokyo to talk about RCEP. It seemed like it came out of it with your Tokyo or your Japanese counterpart, Hiroshige Seko, saying that the path to some type of agreement by your end is clearer now. Is that being optimistic you think?

STEVEN CIOBO: I don't think it's being optimistic. I think it's reflective of the mood in the room. Certainly Seko-san and I have worked closely with Japan on the TPP-11, and we're very invested in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The mood of the meeting on Sunday was positive. Now whether we'll be able to conclude by year's end, well, we've just got to roll our sleeves up and work toward that outcome. But there certainly, I believe, was a general view that the benefits of this trade deal, should it come to pass, would be enjoyed by all 16 countries that we needed to redouble our efforts to try to get a substantial conclusion by the next round for Ministers in Singapore in the near future. So that's what we're gonna work towards.

YVONNE MAN: One of the stumbling blocks though for a final agreement seems to be coming from India and their demand that RCEP actually allow for the free movement of people. That seems to be one of the stumbling blocks between India and Australia in coming up with a bilateral trade deal. Is that gonna be the likely scenario here that could actually scuttle this deal

STEVEN CIOBO: No. Look, we're still in negotiations. We see good faith by all sides, all parties, all 16 doing what they can. Of course, different countries have different offensive and defensive interests. Australia's no different in that respect. Ultimately, some of the significant aspects that will need to be resolved over the weeks ahead will be a goods market access and of course services access. Now to a large extent that will be driven by those countries that don't already have within the overall architecture bilateral FTAs in place. In the main, that's India-China, India-Japan. We've got to look at how all of that plays through. Ultimately, Australia is maintaining, in a parallel track, our discussions with India to try to conclude a good quality deal. That's on a bilateral basis. But by the same token, we're all going to work towards trying to secure a good outcome with respect to RCEP. I think it's fair to say RCEP will not be of the quality or comprehensiveness that the TPP-11 was. I don't think that's earth shattering news. But what would be good is if we could get among the 16 of us a good agreement that builds on past agreements.

YVONNE MAN: Minister, we're gonna leave it there. Minister Ciobo there. Steven Ciobo, Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment speaking exclusively with us from our headquarters in Tokyo.

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