Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News Live, AM Agenda

  • Transcript
Subjects: Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, trade diversification
16 June 2021

Laura Jayes: The Minister for Trade and Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan, joins us live now. It's a busy morning for you, Dan Tehan. This has been months, if not years, in the works. Perhaps you should've given Liz Truss that comfortable chair. Seems like we've got the much better end of the bargain here.

Dan Tehan: Look, Laura, this is a win-win for both countries – and free trade always is a win-win for both countries. It'll benefit UK consumers; it'll benefit their farmers because they begin the process of getting access to markets in the Indo-Pacific through the CPTPP, but it's also a really good outcome for our farmers. And, for the first time, we've got a free trade agreement which really delivers for our rice growers, our cane growers, our beef, our lamb producers and our dairy producers – and that's wonderful for the Australian agriculture sector, and rights that wrong of 50 years ago when the UK turned to the EU and, in many ways, left us stranded.

Jayes: Well cane sugar is always an industry that claims they've been duded. So, is it doing really well in this deal?

Tehan: They are. They get immediate access of 80 kilo tonnes into the UK market, and that grows by 20 kilo tonnes a year until all tariffs are eliminated in year eight — and it's one that's been welcomed. As a matter of fact, I was speaking to Fiona Simson, the President of the NFF, and she said rice growers and sugar growers in Australia are over the moon with this deal. So-

Jayes: And so that's something that we weren't able to get with free trade agreements in the Asian market so, was that the- what you were looking for here – that diversification into the UK?

Tehan: Absolutely. The more we can diversify and the more we can diversify right across our agriculture sector, the better. So, being able to get those outcomes for rice and sugar, in particular, in this agreement has been very welcome news.

Jayes: There's been an extension of the holiday visas on both sides, but there's no required- requirement anymore for the Brits to go into the regions and work for 88 days if they want to extend their visa. It's going to make it really hard for farmers already struggling to find workers, isn't it?

Tehan: No, one of the other wonderful outcomes of this agreement is, for the first time, we're establishing an agriculture and agribusiness visa, which will mean that, not only people - young people from Britain, but older people from Britain - will be able to come to Australia and work in our agricultural sector — and, we'll be looking to expand that agricultural visa as well. This has been something that regional and rural Australia, in particular, have been wanting, standalone agriculture-agribusiness visa. We've now established it. So, this is another real benefit and outcome, especially for regional and rural Australia, out of this agreement. It's something that, I know, will be warmly welcomed.

Jayes: Okay. So that's talking about skilled work. But what about unskilled labour? That's what farmers are really struggling with at the moment, you know, fruit picking and the like. Is that going to be able to be sorted out through this free trade agreement too.

Tehan: So, that's something that we're looking at, is to what shape or form that agriculture and agribusiness visa will take. But we want to make sure that what it will do is fit all those areas where we have labour shortages in this country, for us to be able to, to access people who want to come here and work. So, all that finer detail will be worked through at our end. But once again, the establishment of this agricultural and agribusiness visa another wonderful win, especially for regional and rural Australia from this outcome.

Jayes: Well, beef and cattle- beef and lamb is one of the big exports going into the UK. It's allowed to quadruple immediately and then it eventually gets tariff free after 15 years. But UK farmers have complained that we use growth hormones, we use pesticides and feed additives that they don't use in the UK. So, we having to make some changes there? Or do they just need to cop it?

Tehan: No. We will export our beef and lamb to meet all the requirements that the UK requires for us to send our produce into the UK - like we do with the European Union. So that's standard practice. So, we'll be able to meet all their requirements. We make the cleanest, greenest produce, I think, there is in the world, and our food and health standards are up there with the best in the world. So, our farmers will be able to meet all those UK requirements and we have to remember also that the UK farmers get the benefit also of access, or potential access, to that big market here in the Indo-Pacific through the CPTPP.

Jayes: Okay, yeah, that's an important point to make. The Treasury figures from the UK side show that, in terms of GDP, so economic growth from this agreement, it's about 0.025 per cent in 15 years. What does it mean for us in terms of GDP?

Tehan: Look, we don't do that economic modelling like they have in the UK. What we know is that this diversifies our market, strengthens the economic relationship between the UK and Australia, and will grow that economic relationship. And, if we're able to have a network of free trade agreements like we do — and this will take us up to 75 per cent, the export goods that we export around the world being covered by FTAs, that is of real benefit to all our exporters, and that's what we're seeking to achieve. We know that freer the trade the better it is for Australia because we're a free and open market. We believe in free trade. It's in- Its backed and enhanced the 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth that we had leading into this pandemic and, I think, has seen us bounce back so quickly. It's because we're free, open, we're competitive, and it's meant that we make the best produce in the world and that means people want to buy it around the world.

Jayes: Does this deal fill that China hole?

Tehan: Look, diversifying your exports right across the globe is the best way you can do, because you'll have disputes at certain times with countries on particular goods, you'll also see the economies or markets that you export to might have downward spirals. So, therefore, you've always got to make sure you've got the opportunity to diversify, and that's why this agreement is so important and that's why all Australian exporters should wake up today with big smiles on their face.

Jayes: Yeah, we certainly got the better end of the deal. Come on, Dan Tehan. It's a better deal for Australia than it is UK. Admit it.

Tehan: It's, it's a win-win for both countries, Laura.

Jayes: You always say that. All politicians and business say that. Is that really true?

Tehan: Well, it is, if you believe in the principles of free trade, it is. Because it does mean that the economies of both countries are enhanced, and that's what free trade does, is- as Cobden said, free trade is the diplomacy of God,

Jayes: Yeah, right.

Tehan: … and that's why we believe so strongly in it.

Jayes: Now, you've worked in DFAT. You know, our negotiators, how hard they work. They've matched- because they've been doing this almost constantly for a decade with different countries. The Brits haven't been doing it because they've been in the EU bloc — so perhaps we're just better at this than the Brits at the moment. Maybe we could teach them a thing or two. Is that in the agreement?

Tehan: Well, can I just give a- can I just give a shout out to our wonderful negotiating team in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, led by Elisabeth Bowes. They've done an outstanding job. And, for some of those negotiators, we were finalising this agreement in principle with the UK, while we were conducting the 11th round of free trade negotiations with the EU. They do an outstanding job, I think they're the best in the world, or if not up there with the best in the world, and can I thank them for all their hard work over, over the last 12 months on the UK FTA. You have to remember, it might seem like quite a long time, 12 months, we are on track to have this been the shortest time frame from any FTA we've negotiated — this free trade agreement on the UK. They've done an outstanding job.

Jayes: Well, perhaps I should say that the negotiators have been well exercised over the last five years. So, perhaps they're not as rusty as I'm suggesting. Dan Tehan, appreciate your time as always.

Tehan: Pleasure, Laura. Cheers.

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