Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News

  • Transcript

Laura Jayes: Joining me now is Dan Tehan, live. He is the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. Thanks so much for your time. What was the purpose of this statement? Are you essentially calling China a bully?

Dan Tehan: So, the purpose of this statement, Laura, is that every two years there's a World Trade Organisation policy review of China, and of other countries as well. Some it's every two years, some it's every four years, with China its every two years. And this is a transparency mechanism. It's a very important transparency mechanism, and what we've done is asked a series of questions of China and also issued a statement. And that statement is very clear. It calls out what we think are practises that are politically motivated or could be politically motivated, especially when it comes to barley, wine, coal, lobster and other exports that have been impacted. But that statement also praises China for where it's liberalised and where it's played a positive role with regards to the World Trade Organisation. It's very matter of fact because this is an incredibly important transparency mechanism.

Laura Jayes: It seems like the negative comments certainly outweigh the positive, though. The World Trade Organisation is notoriously slow. Is this your only avenue for recourse to correcting what is essentially an imbalance?

Dan Tehan: There's many options that we can take. Obviously, the World Trade Organisation is incredibly important because it sets the world trading rules, and Australia has benefited immensely from those world trading rules, as China has. And we want to work with China to make sure that all countries are adhering to those world trade rules because it's lifted people out of poverty in China, it's helped us improve our standard of living.

For a country our size there is nothing more important than having rules set by a multilateral body, which enables us to engage with the rest of the world. That's how we've been able to produce 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth before the pandemic hit us, and it's how we will be able to thrive as we come out of this pandemic.

Laura Jayes: Minister, the relationship has got worse. It seems China's aggression towards Australia has escalated in about the last 18 months and it hasn't improved. Have you seen any signs to the contrary?

Dan Tehan: Look, we will continue to keep making the case that our bilateral relationship is incredibly important and the way we engage is incredibly important and especially how we do that economically, because that's how both countries benefit, and we'll continue to make that case. Now, we haven't seen much change over the last 12 to 18 months, but that doesn't mean that we don't keep putting our case, and that's why this transparency review at the World Trade Organisation was so important. If you look, at the moment, China has an energy crisis. Australian coal was providing a secure supply of energy resource to China, the type of coal that we're sending helps with reduce emissions rather than getting them from elsewhere, but that coal was stopped overnight. Now we remain a willing seller of coal to China, and we think we could help them with their energy crisis. So, this is how the economic relationship can help both countries, and we want to get back to how it was before 18 months ago.

Laura Jayes: Do you think that's going to happen?

Dan Tehan: Look, we'll keep making the case, Laura, it's incredibly important that we do that. This is how our country has benefitted, since the Second World War, is by having an open trading system that has enabled us to engage freely with the rest of the world and lift our standard of living. We think it's incredibly important and we'll keep making that case to China and other countries of the importance of the World Trade Organisation and of having rules in place which enable us to trade freely.

Laura Jayes: Speaking of global movements, let's talk about climate because Glasgow is ticking away. The European Union, the latest country to weigh in on Australia's position, essentially saying we need to have that target along with the rest of the world because if we don't, it will cost us. What are the risks if we don't have that net zero emissions by 2050 target and it being binding at Glasgow?

Dan Tehan: Look, the risks are real because protectionist forces will come in behind this push and will try and force tariffs up, and that will impact on Australia. And so, what we've got to be doing is playing our part, being a contributor, signing up to net zero by 2050, engaging and making sure that these protectionist forces can't come to the fore. We hear a lot from the EU ambassadors here in Australia on this, but what we don't hear from them, for instance, is what we need to do with regards to agricultural subsidies. Now agricultural subsidies, the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environmental Programme have said are causing emissions and if we don't address agricultural subsidies, we won't be able to reach our Paris targets. So, we all need to be playing our role. Australia needs to play its role, but I say to Europe and the US and the other big agricultural subsidisers, agricultural export subsidies also has to be on the table. Agricultural domestic subsidies also need to be on the table, and this was something I raised with Secretary John Kerry when I met with him at the OECD, and he gave a commitment that he would look at this and I hope the European Union would do the same.

Laura Jayes: OK, we will see where that all ends up. Dan Tehan, thanks so much for your time this morning. Appreciate it.


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