Interview Rikki Lambert, Flow FM

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Tariffs on Australian wine and barley, UK-Australia free trade deal, G7+ meeting.
08 June 2021

Rikki Lambert: Dan Tehan is the local member in the Federal Seat of Wannon in Western Victoria. He is also the Minister in the Morrison Government for Trade, Tourism and Investment. He is one of the keynote speakers in the Barossa Valley this morning for the Towards 2030 Forum organised by the National Farmers Federation and Primary Producers SA. Towards 2030, referring to the Australian aim to reach $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030. Flow News 24 caught up with the Minister moments ago.

Minister Dan Tehan, thanks for joining us on Flow this morning. Suddenly, there's 20 mils of rain come since you've come to the Barossa. Any coincidence?

Dan Tehan: Look, I can't say that there is. I would love to say there is, but I don't think I can. But it's great to see. I'm in the Barossa at the moment, and it's looking a lot fresher now that this rains come through – and, hopefully, we can get a bit more over, the over the next five to six days.

Lambert: Yeah, fantastic. Now, Barossa wine was hit hard by the tariffs imposed by the Chinese Government. What's the status of the Morrison Government's action on the wine tariffs with regard to China?

Tehan: Well, we continue to take this issue up with Chinese officials. So far unsuccessfully, and now we're looking at taking action in the World Trade Organisation. We've started putting together a potential case that we would take, making sure we've got all the information, and continue to consult with the industry – and we're weeks away from making a final decision on whether we will proceed with WTO action.

Lambert: Are the tariffs, have they got an end of time when it comes to when they'll end from China's point of view, or could they be extended? Will we sort of get to the end of these before WTO action would actually conclude?

Tehan: Well, ultimately, our hope would be that China would take the tariffs off now. We think that that would be the best thing, because then China can get access to the best wine in the world, which comes from Australia. But if they don't, obviously, we have to make sure we take a very principled stand when it comes to our trade policy. When we think an industry has been injured or harmed then we need to take action, and all the available action that we can, and that includes going to the World Trade Organisation.

Lambert: And that's something I understand that has been done on barley. What's the status of the barley action at the moment?

Tehan: Yeah, so that's proceeding. A panel has been established. There are third parties who have joined the dispute as observers, including New Zealand, the US, and the EU. So that process has begun and our hope is, once again, as the case proceeds, the best thing would be to be able to sit down with China and be able to negotiate an outcome which would see an end to the actions taken against Australian barley. So we'll keep pursuing that, but we'll also keep pursuing our case at the WTO at the same time.

Lambert: And speaking of tariffs, and the PM's heading to the G7, I think, this week and you were over in the UK not long ago looking at a trade deal for Australia and the UK. What's the situation with carbon tariffs? There's been- I think, the former Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull has spoken about that earlier in the week. What's the Government's position on the carbon tariffs being considered by the Biden Administration and in Europe?

Tehan: Look, our view is that carbon tariffs are not the way to go. They’re protectionist at heart and all they'll do is harm trade, which obviously benefits all countries. We've put forward a counterproposal, which is that all countries should look to limit the tariffs they put on environmental goods and free up movement of environmental services. That way, all countries can get access to the technology they need for emissions reduction and the services and know how they need to implement that technology. And, we think that is much more consistent with a free trade approach. So we would reduce all the tariffs on environmental goods and free up mobility when it comes to environmental services. This is something that APEC did in 2012 and it worked very successfully.

Lambert: So when we have the Prime Minister, and hopefully Boris Johnson meeting, will they talk about the British trade deal. Are we getting closer to something by the end of the month?

Tehan: They will be talking about the British trade deal. I was on the phone to Liz Truss, my counterpart, last night. I'll be talking to her again tonight. We're sprinting towards a finish to try and get an outcome by the time the two Prime Ministers meet. There's still a lot of work to do and still a lot of negotiation to go. But we're doing our best. But, ultimately, in the end, it'll depend on the final deal – and we're pushing for a very good deal for Australia

Lambert: And is meat a stumbling block? The Farmers Union there will be up in arms about Aussie beef coming into the country. Is that sort of on the last things to sign off?

Tehan: Well, always agriculture is one of the difficult areas, and we tend to see protectionist forces come into play around free trade agreements when it comes to agriculture. But we think we've got a very strong case. We used to get about 150,000 tons of sheep meat into the UK in 1959. That's obviously reduced to under, or around, 10,000 tons now. So we think we've got a very strong case to put and we're continuing those negotiations. And they'll continue again tonight. And our hope is that we will get the most liberalising free trade agreement we've ever done outside of the one we have with New Zealand.

Lambert: Last question on that, because Britain, I think Australia and others in the Trans-Pacific Partnership – I know it's got a longer title than that. Those deliberations have said Britain can come in to those negotiations. What would we get over and above the tariff reductions that would be in a Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Tehan: Well, that will depend on our free trade agreement. If we got a first class gold standard free trade agreement then basically what we would be doing is saying to the UK, you have done what is needed as far as Australia is concerned to accede to the CPTPP, what's called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So that's one of the things that is on the table for negotiation. We want this agreement to be CPTPP plus and that's what we're looking to achieve. But we’ve made very clear to the UK, if they're offer on their side isn’t good enough, then obviously it's going to make it very difficult for us to sign up to a free trade agreement with them. And also, it will make discussions and negotiations very difficult as they want to join the CPTPP.

Lambert: Well, Minister, thank you very much for your time. I know you’re a keynote speaker at the Towards 2030 conference today and enjoy your time with us in the Barossa Valley.

Tehan: Wonderful to be in the Barossa. It's the most magnificent part of the world.


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