JOURNALIST: What were the main issues that were discussed with the USTR?
EMERSON: The kick-starting of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. The Round stalled in 2008, and there’s a genuine effort I think going on around the world to restart the negotiations to bring that Round to a successful conclusion. And there’s an emerging sense that perhaps the way to do that is to engage more genuinely in relation to the liberalisation of trade in services. This could be a way of breaking the impasse by bringing in more fully the negotiations on trade in services because the potential gains there are very large globally, but in particular they appear to be even larger for developing countries than for developed countries.
So the discussion with Ambassador Ron Kirk was focussed on ways of kick-starting the negotiations for the Doha Round bringing it to a successful conclusion including by incorporating more fulsomely negotiations on liberalisation of trade in services.
JOURNALIST: As you know sir, the unemployment rate here in the United States is terribly high. Heading into mid-term elections scheduled for early November, there’s a lot on this Administration’s plate. With regard to Doha, how confident are you that they will be able to take this issue seriously right at this point in time with what’s going on?
EMERSON: I'm encouraged because it works potentially domestically and internationally, that is with the argument that – yes – we need more job creation in the United States. How is that best achieved? Through trade, through more exports. So it fits into a policy strategy of promoting exports, promoting trade, and therefore creating jobs. And I think everyone’s aware that job creation is the most pressing issue but if you're using trade to create jobs then that works in all different ways.
So compared with perhaps the previous round of negotiations, the Uruguay Round, where it was all pretty hard going, this actually could dove tail very well with the Administration arguing that to fix a very real problem here of unemployment we need more trade, we need more exports, therefore trade liberalisation is a good thing all round.
JOURNALIST: What about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was there any progress made on that?
EMERSON: A lot of enthusiasm for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and I reciprocated on behalf of Australia. Every meeting that I had with senior officials in the Administration showed me that there was a lot of interest by the United States in using that as a vehicle for trade liberalisation. Not a substitute for the Doha Round, but a group of like-minded countries who all happen to be members of APEC working together on trade liberalisation. So it’s clear that the Administration is very keen on this as an important vehicle for trade liberalisation. It’s right up our alley in Australia.
We agree that this could be a very important way of delivering reductions in protection amongst the member countries and showing the rest of the world that it can be done. So rather than being a substitute for Doha, it could well be and I think it’s intended to be a complement, and in fact can create some extra momentum for the global trade liberalisation endeavour by showing that a group of like-minded countries reaching across the Pacific can do it. And if you show that you can do it then maybe others realise and get confidence that they can be part of that too, that is the global endeavour to liberalise trade barriers.
JOURNALIST: In terms of Australian domestic politics, what should Australians be making of what’s going on now in terms of the Speaker’s position?
EMERSON: Look, I don't really want to get into the Speaker’s position in Australian politics from here in Washington. I'm here as the Trade Minister and we've had a very engaging period here. Perhaps I'm an irrepressible optimist but I've certainly come out of the talks with the Administration and also with other individual trade ministers from around the world who've gathered here in Washington with a lot of encouragement and optimism that we can bring this Round to a successful conclusion. That’s what I'm concentrating on.
- Minister Emerson's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555