Interview with Jayne Azzopardi, Today Show

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Free trade deal with India.
02 April 2022

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: Welcome back. After more than a decade of protracted negotiations, Australia and India will today sign an interim free trade agreement. Tariffs will be eliminated immediately on 85% of Australian exports, with the agriculture, culture and resources sectors the big winners. Trade Minister Dan Tehan joins us now. Minister, thank you for your time. I want to start with the industries that aren't part of this deal. Why have the beef and dairy industries been excluded?

DAN TEHAN: For India, for us, including beef and dairy was just a step too far at this stage and it wouldn't have got through the Indian cabinet. Now we've spoken to our industries about that. They understand. And when you look at our beef industry, for instance, what we've been able to do is make sure that we can get sheep meat and goat meat into India. We get a zero tariff immediately. So, we always have to weigh these things up. With the UK FTA we were able to get a very good outcome for our beef industry. So, Meat and Livestock Australia very supportive of this agreement, as is the Minerals Council. It's a great win for Australia, gets us access to the largest fastest growing economy in the world, and we'll see our exports, we estimate, go from roughly 15 billion at this stage to 45 billion over the coming decades.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: How comfortable are you, though, with the timing of this deal, with doing a deal with India at a time when that country is not being very vocal at all about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Is it sending the right message?

DAN TEHAN: Well, we have to make sure that we set up our nation and our region for the future, and that's why this deal is not only great for our economy, but very good strategically, we understand the current position that India finds itself in. It's got China on one border, a nuclear armed Pakistan on the other and, obviously, historically, through the non-aligned movement have sourced a lot of their military hardware from Russia, they have called for peace. And Australia's position is very clear, we want peace as well, and that the best way we can get that piece is by Russia withdrawing. What it's doing is illegal, it's immoral and the best thing they could do is abide by the UN Charter and withdraw all their troops from Ukraine at this time.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: India obviously has a closer relationship with Russia than we do, so shouldn't we be using our relationship with India to pressure them, to pressure the Russians?

DAN TEHAN: Well, obviously, we have a lot of chats, a lot of talks with India. We explain where we're coming from. They explain their current position. But one of the things about this agreement and, it's at India's behest, has been called a unity agreement, is it allows us to be able to grow our relationship even closer with the largest democracy in the world. And it means that as these geostrategic challenges continue to confront us, and especially in the Indo-Pacific, in our region, we'll have that very close partnership with India to be able to deal with these challenges that we face. So, over the longer term, the medium term, we've got to look at what our overall national interest is and having a closer relationship with India, the world's largest democracy, is absolutely paramount.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: We know that a lot of our exporters have been suffering because of the sanctions from China. How far will this deal make up for that and how will it benefit regular Australians?

DAN TEHAN: Yeah, it will help in a big way. So, for instance, for our wine industry we get preferential access into the Indian wine market that no other country enjoys. For our wool exporters they get the tariff eliminated immediately and India is one of our largest export destinations for our wool. Sheep meat, our coal, zero per cent tariff for coal, all those critical minerals and rare earths which are going to be so important as we decarbonise that go into e-batteries into e-cars – all zero tariffs into India. This will see our economy continue to grow, our exports continue to grow with India, up to $45 billion worth of exports, we're predicting by 2035. So it's a major win for us and most importantly, one in five jobs in Australia are relying on exports and it's one in four jobs in regional Australia so deals like this underpin our economic future.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: And it's great timing for your Government just a week or so up from an election campaign being called, Minister Tehan, thank you for your time.

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