QUESTION: You mentioned it's 100 days now to CIIE, and wanted to understand because there are some other businesses here, and Australia Post, who are very active in CIIE, the President Xi’s trade show to open up to the world. Minister, what do you expect and want from brands showcasing their services and products and offerings at that time?
PENNY BURRT: Thanks Jeremy. If we could take another 2 questions.
STEVEN CIOBO: I like your faith in my ability to remember all these questions, Penny.
PENNY BURRT: What questions?
QUESTION: Good afternoon, my name's Gavin Smith, I'm the Country Head for Bosch in Australia and New Zealand. Steve, you talk about the strategic partnership with the US around rare-earth minerals. Also, a big topic for us, China controls 90 per cent of the resources, 90 per cent of rare-earth magnet production, but Australia has got a wealth of rare earths in the ground ready to be extracted. In practical terms, what can the government do to actually help accelerate the process of getting them up, processed, and into market?
STEVEN CIOBO: So to address the CIIE question, look, I'm very pleased to be leading a very significant delegation to China for CIIE. You know, President Xi's now spoken on at least three or four occasions, Boao, The People's Congress, and at Davos, as well as previously at the Belt and Road Forum about his stated desire to continue to open and liberalise China's economy. That represents terrific opportunity for Australian business. It’s our most significant bilateral trade relationship, worth $173 billion. Now, traditionally, that's predominately been in relation to resources in the main, and in particular iron ore and coal. But what we want to do is make sure that we now expand that out, and CIIE will provide an opportunity to look at the way in which we can embrace some of that opportunity. I had the chance to go recently to Shanghai and to see, for lack of a better term, the convention centre, and the scale, I mean, most Australians don't appreciate the scale of what we're talking about. This convention centre where CIIE will be held will take around 300,000 people a day, and it is really significant. Part of what I want to make sure that we do as a nation, and what I'm calling on businesses like Australia Post and others to do, is to partner with us, through Austrade, who's of course, driving that responsibility on behalf of the Australian Government, in relation to the branding and positioning of Australia, with respect to China and those opportunities. Having a strong team approach, for lack of a better term, Team Australia approach, will be critical. In what's going to be a very congested marketplace, with more than a hundred countries possibly being present, require some consistency in relation to what we can achieve together, so that's going to be a core part of the focus. One of the initiatives that we put in place, which, unfortunately, won't be concluded by the time of CIIE though, is the development and establishment of a nation brand for Australia. I've asked Andrew Forrest to chair a committee that includes eminent Australians, including for example, Alan Joyce and Jayne Hrdlicka and others, a nation brand for our country. And I want it to be driven by industry, not by politicians, I want to be driven by industry, to effectively embrace and embody within it, the core brands that our country is both known for, but also which we can help to shape, and to help shape perceptions about Australia going forward. An example many people often make reference to is, New Zealand's ‘100% Pure’ campaign. In time, with future CIIE’s, for example, if we successfully get a strong nation brand, we'll have Australian business getting behind it, and we know that'll help to establish a strong point of presence, in terms of Australia's presence, at these kinds of import and export conferences that happen in the future. In relation to rare-earths, watch this space, is the main point I'd make, at this stage. I've raised it today, and I intend to do a lot more and take the opportunity to drive some specific policy settings from the Australian Government in relation to this. In my speech I outlined some of the opportunity in relation to rare-earths and I think there is an extraordinary amount that we can do. You know, in terms of lithium, we've got the largest concentration of hard rock-source lithium globally, and I want to ensure that, not only in relation to lithium but also in relation to other rare-earths, that we can develop a much stronger presence of processing and refining here in Australia. And it's not about the Australian Government picking winners per se, it's about recognising that this is gonna be a multi-trillion dollar market. At the moment, as I understand, we get lithium to about 4-6 per cent purity before it's exported for further processing. In other words, we export 96 per cent waste, it's crazy. And by making sure that we can continue to drive further investment into Australia, through accommodation of Federal Government incentives and well as State Government incentives, and by incentives, I don't necessarily mean financial, I mean incentives in terms of facilitation and making it easier for businesses to process here, which requires a combination of Federal and State Governments working together. I'm very confident that over the years ahead we could develop a strong presence here in Australia of refining and processing of these minerals here in Australia, rather than exporting them. And that has clearly, logically got to be a tremendous opportunity for Australia. Both with respect, as I said, to traditional, strong trading partners like China, but also with respect to traditional, strong trading partners like Japan and the United States. And so, that's going to be ultimately the direction in which we push, but I'll say a lot more about this over the months ahead.
PENNY BURRT: Thank you very much Minister, really interesting initiative to be focused on. Can we check if there are other questions in the back? In the middle? Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you Minister, David Olson, King & Wood Mallesons. China's been pushing a very strong open trade agenda as well, through its Belt and Road strategy, and you've obviously been to the Forum and participated in other events. Globally, though, we seem to be at loggerheads with China, in terms of its economic development model and how that Belt and Road strategy fits into the trade agenda. Do you see opportunities for Australian companies to participate more proactively to work with China, to alleviate some of the perceptions, the negative perceptions of the Belt and Road strategy, transparency, governance and financing and things like that, where we've got real strengths. At the moment, I sense we're not talking properly to each other.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I'll pull you up on, perhaps you didn’t mean it directly, but the assertion about us being at loggerheads, I certainly don't think that we’re at loggerheads. Australia and China's trade and investment relationship is very, very strong. It's our most significant trading relationship at $173 billion. To go to, I think, what was the main part of your question, about how do we address issues like transparency and the work that we can do together there - look, I think there is opportunity. There is no doubt that China and Australia have very different systems of governance, very different systems of governance. Australia tries to embrace as much as we possibly can, the benefits that flow from transparency, and the benefits that flow from an openness in respect of government functions. We think that it's in China's interest to do that, as well. Where we have opportunity to be able to work constructively on these principles together, we absolutely should take them. One of the outcomes of my attendance of the Belt and Road Initiative Forum in May, trying to think if it was last year or the year before, was to focus on the work that we could do together in third countries. As a nation, we've got a really strong track record, with respect to project finance, design, construction, et cetera. Let's work together for the provision of infrastructure throughout the region, in a way that ticks those boxes in relation to transparency and the like. And we have done some of this before. If you cast your mind back to the establishment of the AIIB, the Infrastructure Investment Bank that was put in place and the work that Australia's done through ADB, the Asian Development Bank, you can see a strong track record, of an approach that sees effective governance, transparency, and openness. That has always been Australia's approach. So, we will continue to be an advocate for that approach, but recognise that there are differences in terms of the approach that China and Australia has, with respect to some of these projects and I respect that there are differences. We'll be advocates for our approach. China will adopt an approach that suits China and there will always be opportunities where there’s strong overlap for us to work constructively together. So, that's precisely what we're doing with respect to the Belt and Road Initiative. It's a great initiative that China's pursuing. Australia has our own initiatives that we're pursuing including for example, the Northern Australia initiative, and the work that we're doing to drive investment into Northern Australia, recognising the incredible potential that will flow from Northern Australian investment over the years and decades ahead. So, they’re examples of where we will find, from time to time, that we can work constructively together in third countries. That's why we signed the MOU, and I remain committed to doing so.
PENNY BURRT: Thank you Minister. Oh another one? Alan Oxley there.
QUESTION: Minister, you mentioned single desk in your introductions. Sometime ago, I asked a friend of mine who had been a Customs official for a very long time, who runs his own business now, what he estimated to be the cost of administration in Customs in Australia because he said, in his opinion, that it hadn't really been tackled for 15 to 20 years and thought it was really just too much for the officials to go. He estimated that the cost to trade was about 15 per cent on products to meet the administrative arrangements or the way it works, so could you give us a picture of where this is all heading?
STEVEN CIOBO: In relation to single desk?
STEVEN CIOBO: No. I'm gonna leave that to Minister Littleproud because that's his baby, and that's his area, not mine. But you would recall, Alan, why I appreciate you're a terrific contributor to this discussion over a long period of time. My point in raising it was to talk about some of the hard decisions Australia's adopted over the decades, which I think is, although often politically fraught by various Governments. Politically fraught, in terms of their implementation, have placed Australia in a strong position vis-à-vis our ability to trade with the world. But I'm gonna absolutely leave that to the appropriate Minister, which is not me, and is in fact the Agriculture Minister to make those comments.
PENNY BURRT: Thank you Minister. I'm actually gonna presume on the chair here and ask you a question about India. You set out a really interesting view today, in terms of our future opportunity and agenda quite clearly. The new India Economic Strategy and the Government's response is a great moment to be discussing what we can do. When we think about regional trade architecture at this point, India is not yet a member of APEC, it hasn't been part of the TPP, and you've obviously flagged we are working towards bilateral economic partnership. What's your view on how we might bring India into some of these regional trade initiatives and what are the prospects in the immediate future?
STEVEN CIOBO: Probably the largest opportunity right at this point in time is in relation to RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, as it's called. RCEP represents ASEAN plus six countries, including Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, and Korea, and really does present tremendous opportunity for us if we can conclude a deal. If and, I'm hopeful that we will, but we've just gotta continue to work through it, if we can conclude a deal, it will be a terrific outcome, because I don't think it will be on the same level of comprehensiveness and ambition as the TPP, but it will importantly be a deal that will see ASEAN plus six being able to sit down and say ‘okay, we've agreed on some rules of the road so to speak, we've agreed on tariff reductions, market access, movement of natural persons, those types of things. A successful conclusion of RCEP will, in the short term, mean that India is at the table, and that's great. But India's got to go through a reform process, and it is. Prime Minister Modi has outlined on numerous occasions now, part of his very fierce pursuit of investment into India, the ‘Make in India’ campaign which, of course, many of you would be familiar with. What I've sought to do and the Prime Minister's approach in commissioning this study by Peter Varghese, was to develop, as I said, a more holistic approach for engagement with India. Recognising for all the reasons I outlined in my speech, just the scope of opportunity. The ten sectors, ten states approach that Peter has outlined in his Economic Strategy, I think provides a lot of ballast for Australian businesses to think about and to help inform and guide them on their engagement with India. I think it's fair to say that, not all, but many businesses make the mistake perhaps of thinking, we've achieved success with respect to, for example China, we adopted a strategy of X in relation to China, we'll adopt that same strategy of X with respect to India because that's a big market too. And that's a mistake, because it's a very different market, and it requires a different approach and a different strategy. So what we want to do is make sure we can equip Australian businesses to tackle their strategy for engaging India and expanding into India, in a way that's consistent with the Indian Government’s desired outcomes, and in a way that's consistent with what will be the approach that's been outlined by Peter Varghese, which the Government will respond to in due course.
PENNY BURRT: Great. [inaudible] is actually looking forward to working very closely actually, with the Government and others in helping implement some of the outcomes of this Strategy. Our last question, that’s so great, there is a big red sign in the back.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you Minister. My name is Trent Smyth, I'm the Secretary of the Consular Corps in Melbourne. To David's point and also perhaps to Alan's as well, India and China have got competing interests. So do you see an increasing role for sports diplomacy and say soft diplomatic tools, in terms of bringing them together, vis-à-vis the AFL game in Shanghai recently and also the major events, particularly since we're here in Victoria, Grand Prix, tennis, and so on. I'll be interested in your comments on that.
STEVEN CIOBO: Cricket, you left out cricket. That's probably the biggest one, with respect to India. Look, of course, ultimately I believe, and certainly anecdotally has been the case, and I'm sure there's research around, people like Alan are probably more familiar with it than I. Ultimately, the strength of these relationships is driven by the people-to-people links, and the more that we can facilitate cultural links and people-to-people links, the more we can draw on our diasporas, as I said in my speech, whether it's the Indian diaspora, now the Chinese diaspora, we have now in Australia, I think, Chinese or Mandarin is the second most commonly spoken language, after English, in the country. You know, those people-to-people links, those cultural links, are absolutely what will underpin being able to do work, to drive trade, to drive investment between our countries. So, that will absolutely include opportunities around, to use your phrase, soft diplomacy, around sports. We have some really strong linkages with India in relation to cricket, in particular, not exclusively, but that clearly is what tends to dominate. I think it's tremendous that the AFL is forward leaning enough to look at the expansion of the game into China. It's probably gonna take a little while, but they know that. You know, it's a deliberate strategy the same, they're not expecting 400 million Chinese to tune into the AFL Grand Final, but it's about putting down some roots now, which they can build on over time. And so I think there are a lot of opportunities in relation to that, and I think that's a terrific outcome.
PENNY BURRT: Thank you. Well, Minister, thank you very much for a fantastic session, for sharing your thoughts and your vision for the future.
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