Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Resumption of wine exports to China, Impediments to trade with China, Deputy Opposition Leader’s comments on China and ADF personnel.

Kieran Gilbert, Host: Meanwhile, wine producers are welcoming the resumption of exports to China. Ahead of the visit, let's bring in the Trade Minister, Don Farrell, who's in McLaren Vale. How many Australian wine businesses have resumed their trade now with China, Minister?

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Thanks, Kieran. In the first month since the Chinese authorities lifted the restrictions on Australian wine, in that first month, we've sold more wine than we did in the previous three years. Already, 350 Australian winemakers have now got their wonderful products back into the Chinese markets. That represents about $86 million worth of new sales into China. And importantly, from the position of the South Australian wine industry, $80 million of that $86 million have come from premium wine. In the vineyard that I'm at the moment, the Wirra Wirra vineyard, which, of course, produces the wonderful Church Block wines.

Kieran Gilbert: Will it get back to what it once was, do you think? The wine export market to China, which was massive when these tariffs were imposed?

Minister for Trade: Yes, previous to the tariff increases, the Australian wine industry sold about $1.2 billion worth of wine into China. Much of it was premium wine. Of course, that disappeared overnight. If you quickly do your calculations of $86 million of wine back into China in the last month, then I am optimistic that because of the reputation of Australian wine in China, that we will very quickly recover our market share into the Chinese market. Now, of course, as we know, you shouldn't be putting all of your eggs in the one basket. We've got new free trade agreements with India. That represents great opportunities for Australian wine. We've got to focus on Southeast Asia. Too often in the past, we have flown over Southeast Asia to China, Japan, Korea. We've got to focus more on Southeast Asia. And, of course, we know that wine sales have more than doubled into the UK market since our free trade agreement there. So, yes, I think we'll get back, back in very large volumes into the Chinese market, but we want to diversify our trading relationships.

Kieran Gilbert: The remaining impediments are lobster, the lobster exports and some, a few abattoirs. Are you hopeful that when the Premier is here, that the remaining impediments will be removed?

Minister for Trade: Look, I'm hopeful that given the stabilisation process that's been underway with China and the work that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister have done with the Chinese authorities will result in the removal of the remaining impediments to our relationship. And, as you say, that includes lobster and a couple of small abattoirs in Queensland. I think the important thing to remember, Kieran, is that last year our trade with China was $327 billion, so more than the next five trading partners. But I can't see, given the improved relationship with China, why that figure can't be $400 billion. We know that Australia's clean and green image for food and wine is very much appreciated by Chinese consumers. I think we can sell even more of our wonderful food and wine into the Chinese market.

Kieran Gilbert: The Deputy Opposition Leader - I just want to put those comments to you, you probably heard what she said earlier on Sky News, but I'll get your reaction to it - where Sussan Ley said that she's all supportive of having the pandas at the Adelaide Zoo and the focus on keeping the pandas here. But what I want to see is a focus on, this is what she said, I want to see a focus on the ADF personnel, not pandas, and a commitment from the Chinese Premier that there won't be any more incidents that either threaten or injure our ADF personnel. Is that also a priority, the greatest priority for the government, as this stabilisation continues?

Minister for Trade: Well, the important part of our relationship with China is that stabilisation process, and that gives us a mechanism to communicate with the Chinese authorities. And on every occasion that I've met with my Chinese counterpart, or the other ministers or Prime Ministers have met, we have always ensured that issues of national security and national interests are raised with the Chinese authorities. Remember this. When these trade bans were first introduced, the Coalition couldn't even get their phone calls returned by the Chinese authorities. I've now had seven meetings with my Chinese counterpart, Wang Wentao. This weekend will be number eight. It's by communicating both the good and the bad news in terms of our relationship with China that we can resolve our problems. We want trade to be part of the peaceful processes in our region. We see trouble in the Middle East, we see trouble in Europe. We want a peaceful region. National security, national interests, but also trade are all part of the same solution to peace in our region.

Kieran Gilbert: I know you've got to go. Just quickly on the climate issue, there's been talk of an economic backlash to any such backslide on targets, emissions targets. But do you see the risk here politically if Peter Dutton is able to prosecute a potent message about cost of living being the main focus for him and his team?

Minister for Trade: Look, this government, the Albanese Government, can deal both with the cost of living issues and the climate issues. We can do both of those things. As you know, Kieran, we're reducing taxes for all Australians, we're putting downward pressure on electricity bills, we're producing surpluses at the Federal level. Of course, that pushes downward pressure on mortgage rates. We understand the problems of the cost of living issues in the Australian community. We're acting to help Australians through this difficult, difficult period of time, but we're not giving up on the issues of climate. We want Australia to be a renewable superpower. One of the things we'll be discussing with the Chinese Government is how we decarbonise both of our economies. We can do both at the same time. Kieran.

Kieran Gilbert: Trade Minister Don Farrell joining us from McLaren Vale. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Minister for Trade: Thanks, Kieran.

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