Interview with Tom Connell, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: AU-EU Free Trade Agreement; Australia-India Free Trade Agreement, AU-UK Free Trade Agreement; National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Tom Connell, Host: He spoke about our trading Partners and there is another free trade deal the government is working on at the moment with the EU. So, will it come to pass? Joining me live is Tourism and Trade Minister Don Farrell here in the studio. Thanks for your time. You've had a delegation out in Australia. You're going to meet today with your Spanish counterpart as well. Are you more or less confident of an imminent trade deal with the EU?

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Thanks, Tom. Look, I'm very confident that we're going to get a trade deal in good time. As you've said, we had a group of European Parliamentarians out here a few weeks ago. They were extremely positive about our prospects. At about the same time, I met the French Trade Minister. Again, he was extremely positive, and as you've said, I'm meeting the Spanish Trade Minister today. I think the game changer in all of these negotiations is the decision by the Americans to give priority to Australian critical minerals in their electric vehicles into the future. This gives us a very good negotiating position, I believe, with the Europeans. We want access to their agricultural markets for things like our meat and our grains.

Tom Connell: And so the quid pro quo is more of those metals that are so sought after.

Minister for Trade: Yeah. So, at the moment, just like we've had too many of our eggs in the China basket, so to have the Europeans. They realise that if they can't get access to alternative sources of critical minerals, then they'll be totally reliant on the Chinese market.

Tom Connell: Okay and yet for that need, you said ‘in good time'. That doesn't seem imminent, that language.

Minister for Trade: Well, I don't want to put a particular date on it.

Tom Connell: Are we years away still?

Minister for Trade: No, not years, and it was very much the wish of the Europeans that we resolved this by early next year. The reason for that is that by the end of the year, there are some European elections. They want this finalised by that.

Tom Connell: Okay.

Minister for Trade: And of course, we want that before -

Tom Connell: Before there are new members in so that it doesn't end.

Minister for Trade: Yeah.

Tom Connell: Okay. Are they asking it all for help on gas? I don't think we provide it directly, indirectly, given what's happening with Russia and Ukraine.

Minister for Trade: That hasn't been one of the items that they've raised. They've raised a few other items like our luxury car tax. They want us to get rid of that. They've raised some issues like the geographical indicators on things like feta cheese and other things - would you believe? We haven't indicated any support for those changes, but they're on the table. Basically, this is a negotiating process. We know what we want. I mean, that's the big trick about negotiation. You have to know what you want. We want a good deal into the future, particularly for our farmers, but for a whole range of manufacturing goods as well.

Tom Connell: Some other timelines. A couple of free trade deals that need to be ratified at the coalition struck. The Australia-India free trade deal - when is that going to be ratified?

Minister for Trade: Well, we've got both the India free trade agreement and the UK free trade agreement that are before the Treaty's Committee at the moment. Both of those processes stopped at the last election when the Parliament was prorogued. I've had to re-establish the Committee and re-refer those two agreements. I've done that. I've asked for a reporting date of the 18 November, which I believe will be met, and then that gives us time by the end of the year to get through any legislative changes that might be required as a result of those agreements.

Tom Connell: The end of the year would be your hope of both of them?

Minister for Trade: Yes, I'd be very confident that both of those agreements will be in place by the end of the year.

Tom Connell: Okay, so finally, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the big topic at the moment, when would public hearings happen? When do you think Ministers should be subject to public hearings, for example?

Minister for Trade: What we've established here is an independent body to look at issues of corruption in Australian national life. We're not going to be directing the Commission as to how it's going to conduct its -

Tom Connell: But you'll give them an indication of when they should be public.

Minister for Trade: Well, we'll give them the right to be independent, and we will select the people that will make the decisions, and we'll give them the legislation. The legislation has various rules around all of these things. We would expect the Commission to obviously adhere to those rules and conduct decisions in accordance with their charter.

Tom Connell: [Coughing]I've got a gremlin in my throat. I'll let you go before you're subjected more to it, Minister. Thank you.

Minister for Trade: Thanks very much.

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