ABC Afternoon Briefing with Matt Doran

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement, Trade with China, Pacific budget speculation.

Matt Doran, host: Don Farrell welcome back to Afternoon Briefing. A lot of people might be sitting at home wondering how they're going to benefit from a Free Trade Agreement. It does seem a bit of a foreign concept to many. What are we going to see in Australia based on this Free Trade Agreement with the UK?

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Well, more jobs and more exports for Australian food and wine producers, and manufacturers. From the end of this month, 99 per cent of all exports that we send to the United Kingdom will go in tariff free. This is a market of 67 million people. We used to be in the United Kingdom before they left the European Union. We're back there and it's a fantastic opportunity for our exporters, whether they be wine, rice, honey, nuts, to get right back into the UK market.

Matt Doran: When we're talking about markets, we often compare it to some of the bigger players; China, the United States, where a lot of trade is happening. How does the UK market compare in terms of where we actually send our products?

Minister for Trade: It's a much smaller market, but I think this gives us an opportunity to perhaps double our market share in the United Kingdom over the next few years. We've obviously got a long-standing relationship with the United Kingdom, we are building up our defence relationship with them, so I think this probably represents the best opportunity in a long time to build that relationship. And of course, we've seen overnight that both Prime Ministers, the UK Prime Minister and Anthony Albanese, promoting the opportunities for this Free Trade Agreement. It's one thing to put words on a piece of paper, it's quite another thing to get some practical results out of it. There's a great opportunity now for Australian food and wine companies and manufacturers to get into that UK market.

Matt Doran: You've got the words on the paper for the UK deal and that's something that your government inherited from your predecessors. You also inherited the negotiations when it comes to the European Union Free Trade Agreement. That is a much more complex beast, isn't it, trying to get that deal over the line with Brussels?

Minister for Trade: Yeah you're right Matt, but of course, the benefits of a Free Trade Agreement with the EU far surpass the arrangements with the United Kingdom, with a population of 450 million people and an economy of $3 trillion. It's worth the effort that we are putting into it to try and nail an agreement. At officials’ levels there were discussions last week, I'm talking with my counterpart on Monday. Both regions are keen to get this put to bed by the middle of the year. I'm putting all of our efforts into ensuring that we come up with an agreement that's good for Australia, good for Australian manufacturers, and producers of food and wine.

Matt Doran: So, what are the sticking points? What's still being nutted out between the parties?

Minister for Trade: They're all pretty much out there - what they call the geographic indicators - a range of products like Prosecco, like feta, like haloumi. When we accepted refugees from Europe after World War II, not only did they bring their culture and their families, but they also brought their food and wine. So those Australians, from Europe, who've built up businesses in this area, feel very attached to their products. This is a way in which they feel that they can connect and stay connected to their homeland. I've explained to the Europeans that they have to understand that these are difficult issues for Australian companies. Some of the other issues like our luxury car tax, has been an issue that's been raised and from our point of view, we want greater access to the agricultural markets of the Europeans. They've always been very protectionist of this. We're not going to have an agreement just for the sake of an agreement. We want something that's going to deliver practical outcomes for Australian wine and food producers, and manufacturers.

Matt Doran: The Trade portfolio is probably the one in government prone to clocking up the most frequent flyer miles as you jet around the world. Are you going to be jetting to China anytime soon?

Minister for Trade: We've had very good discussions with the Chinese. As you know, the Chinese Trade Minister invited me to China and I've accepted that invitation, and I expect to be in China in the very, very near future.

Matt Doran: There has been a change in the position that Australia is taking on these trade disputes with Beijing. You and your colleague Penny Wong announcing a suspension, temporary suspension, of the WTO action that the Government has taken there for a period of time. What sort of duration do you allow China to start moving in regards to the tariffs and barriers that they've put up for Australian products? Do you set a time limit there?

Minister for Trade: Yes, we have Matt. We've set three months. We've said to the Chinese Government, as an act of goodwill, we will suspend our World Trade Organisation dispute over barley. We were very confident we were going to win that case, but to display some goodwill and try and speed up the resumption of trade in Australian barley to China, we've suspended that process. We are getting some products back into China - coal, for instance, we're getting back into China. You have to understand, with the Chinese market, it is still far and away our largest market. Two-way trade last year was almost $300 billion. That eclipses all of our trade with the United States, with Japan, with Korea, with UK and with Germany. It's a big amount of trade we do, but they have created problems for a range of our products and we want all of those all of those impediments lifted. That means getting wine back into China, getting meat back into China, getting crayfish back into China. All of the products that have been subject to impediments.

Matt Doran: Just briefly, reporting by the ABC today suggesting that next week's budget will contain a significant amount of spending and support for our Pacific neighbours. Is that an indication that the government or that Australia has sort of dropped the ball in recent years in safeguarding our interests in this region?

Minister for Trade: Look, I don't think it's an indication of that, but it is an indication that Penny Wong, who I have to say is doing a fantastic job as Foreign Minister, is making sure that we reengage with our region, but not just talk, but practical actions to work with our regional neighbours in the Pacific. We've got an objective to ensure that our interests are protected in this region and Penny is doing a terrific job to implement that.

Matt Doran: Don Farrell, thank you for your time.

Minister for Trade: Nice talking with you, Matt

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