Joint doorstop interview , Adelaide

  • Joint transcript with:
  • The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Secretary of State for International Trade
Subjects: AU-UK Free Trade Agreement, nuclear-powered submarines, Malinauskas Government’s task force, trade relations with China.

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Thank you for coming along today on what's a slightly overcast day. But we're here to welcome the Secretary of State for International Trade from the United Kingdom, my very good friend, Secretary of State Trevelyan. She's been in Australia for a few days, but of course she's now come to the best part of Australia, which is Adelaide and South Australia, and later on today she's heading out to the wonderful Clare Valley.

One of the reasons that the Secretary of State is here is to talk about Australia's progress on the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement. That was negotiated late last year and now there's a process in Australia we have to go through. I've commenced that process and I'm very hopeful that within a couple of months we will have completed all of our legal requirements to start up that Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom, and we can start reaping the benefits in terms of investment and jobs for Australia. One of the things it does, of course, is to increase the prosperity of both our countries.

The other thing the Secretary of State has done today is gone down to see our magnificent shipyards at Osborne. She's been mightily impressed with those and, of course, we've got a wonderful future ahead of us with the Defence Industries in South Australia. Without further ado, I welcome Secretary of State Trevelyan to say a few words to you.

UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan: Thank you. Thank you, Don, for hosting me in your home state of South Australia. I even managed to have a bit of a more fresh weather today to make me feel at home.

Minister for Trade: More like home.

UK Secretary of State: And prepare me for my return. I've had an outstanding visit to Australia and New Zealand and it's wonderful to be here in Adelaide. I think the right thing to say is I've kept the best till last. You certainly can't chase me out of the country now because I'm safely here. It's genuinely a truly beautiful part of the world. It's been a great discovery for me and, of course, you are of real significance to the UK here.

This has been my first opportunity to meet with stakeholders, with businesses and with many members of the Government to make sure that we're going to be making the most of our new UK‑Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Our agreements are based on at least 10 billion pounds of additional trade, boost our economies, promote wage growth and deliver more jobs. So, to make sure that we both take full advantage of this trade deal, and that we can both feel that greatest economic impact, we need businesses to walk through the door that this deal has opened, and to seize the opportunities that it's going to offer. We know that both our countries have world‑class industries and successful innovative companies leading the way in many, many fields.

I spent this morning, as you mentioned Don, visiting the British designed Hunter‑class frigates at the BAE naval shipyard and witnessing firsthand the impact of that UK‑Australia partnership; and yes, indeed they are very impressive sheds to build ships in, and I think I'll go back to London and be singing the praises of what they have here. The BAE team here are obviously very, very proud of the work that they are doing.

But of course, as well as building joint capability on a global level, this collaboration is going to mean more than 5,000 jobs across the UK and Australian Defence. That supply chain will bring opportunities for local businesses right here in South Australia. This is our partnership in action – global impact and local benefits.

This afternoon, I've got the privilege of attending the opening of the Surrey space technology's first Australian office, one of the many companies that we know is going to be making use of our Space Bridge with Australia. We launched last year, opening new trade, investment, research and those collaboration opportunities for our space sectors. So of course, it's going to show us, it's vital that we continue working with our allies and friends, and I've committed to continuing to build our long, ambitious, and strategic partnership. My message is clear: we've agreed an ambitious landmark trade deal, so now let's work together to enjoy the immense benefits that it's going to bring us. Thank you.

Minister for Trade: Any questions?

Journalist: Certainly, I'll start with you Secretary, if you don't mind. Off the back of your visit this morning to Osborne, how well placed do you think that facility could be to build potentially BAE‑designed submarines in the future?

UK Secretary of State: So, it was really wonderful to be able to see what the Hunter‑class program is starting to look like and to meet some of the younger faces who have their whole life careers there. Now, really exciting and to have a chance to talk with some of your Defence leaders, too, about what that next opportunity in the shipbuilding of nuclear‑powered submarines will look like. I was able to see where that site might come in due course. I think there's a really big piece of work, for both our countries, which is what we've been trying to do, as well as obviously having to think about how we help defend international waters and ensure that our shipping lanes stay open, and that we can provide a defence to our respective citizens.

The opportunity to work together on the next generation of the submarines, I think, is going to be a really exciting project. AUKUS is just getting going. It is a 50‑year bond between our countries. It's a strategic partnership that sets an anchor to both our own shipbuilding industries and what that means, but it's so much more than that. The UK is looking forward as your Deputy Prime Minister was – we've swapped, I've come here, and he's gone across there – to hearing how we're going to be welcoming Australian sailors on to our submarines. In those first early weeks and years to discover a bit more for themselves about what it will mean for the opportunities both for your Navy and, of course, your industrial enterprise, I think will be extensive and we're really looking forward to working together on it.

Journalist: Would you like to see the Hunter‑class enter the water before December 2031 or are you satisfied with that timeline?

UK Secretary of State: So, clearly, that's an Australian program and our BAE team are working hand in glove with your Naval defence to rollout the program. From what I saw today, I think they're making incredible progress. The technologies they're using are really right at the front end. Some of the sophistication in terms of digital assessment ability to ensure that the welding is world class is really interesting to see in action and clearly, the program is moving at pace now and we'll see both the numbers of people who are starting to come and work, and also the pace at which the program comes together. But, obviously, that's from a technical perspective I leave that to your experts.

Journalist: Can I ask you about other parts of the economy that you're enthused about once the FTA is all signed off on. Is it things like wine? Is it things like veal? From a UK perspective, what are people up there most looking to access at a cheaper price than now at the moment?

UK Secretary of State: I think all sorts of things. Obviously, stripping away tariffs on both sides will afford the opportunities for both existing markets, I think which goes to your point about wine. I have no doubt that the discerning British wine drinker will continue to want to buy Australian wines and more of that on the shelves will be very welcome. But it's a much, much wider group than that and I think not only around goods sharing what we do in that space, with a huge amount of work in the tech space, with innovation, within the digital sector. I have met some fantastic young entrepreneurs who are really excited about the opportunity of being able to grow their businesses in the UK and to see UK businesses. The flows and mobility will be so much easier as part of the FTA that I think we're going to see a continuous flow of those next generation businesses grow together, and that's one of the things that I think is continuing and building relationship that we want to grow will be part of. So, I think across many sectors, but we are looking forward to testing some more so that I can know what to certainly choose off the shelf.

Journalist: Secretary, what can we expect from the UK to potentially come into Australia then in terms of industry and business?

UK Secretary of State: So, as I say, one of the things about creating an FTA, it's a very broad FTA, we want businesses to take the tools that we've created and use them. I think there's some really important opportunities around clean energy, green trade where the UK is a world leader, and working together. I've just spoken to Don –particularly about Sydney around that space - huge opportunities for businesses to work together to help Australia to meet the net zero challenge that you've now got and you're starting to build that road map. I think there will be some really interesting things around electric vehicles and working together. I think certainly the businesses I've met are champing at the bit to be able to get going together and to be able to work perhaps actually on those businesses almost ahead of Government policy, so I think there's some really exciting work to see across that area particularly.

Journalist: There was a letter leaked recently indicating that Britain wouldn't try and use free trade agreements to enforce human rights with partner countries. Do you stand by that?

UK Secretary of State: Free trade agreements don't have – UK ones – don't have, if you like, a human rights chapter. We do all our, kind of foreign diplomacy in those areas, we use it through the foreign development office. That's the framework. But we do believe very strongly that having strong trade affords the opportunity to have a greater level of confidence with the countries that you trade with and that makes it easier to have those difficult conversations if there are issues like those of human rights. We as a country in the UK, have very strong values around freedom, liberty and want to continue to make that, but we don't believe that the trade framework is one in which you should use that as a weapon.

Journalist: Can we go to the Senator? Senator, obviously you've had a very high‑profile visit of Osborne today. Just how crucial is it going to be to have the appropriate workforce to deliver both the frigate program and the future submarine program going forward?

Minister for Trade: That's a good question on a day like today because we're wrapping up the Jobs and Skills summit. We've got labour shortage problems in this country. The purpose of the meetings over the last two days has been to try to address those. They're in every sector. I see them firsthand in some of the sectors I deal with, such as tourism, but they're across the board. Hopefully, what started today and yesterday are the first step towards resolving some of these longer term issues regarding providing skilled workforce for the jobs of the future.

Obviously, Defence is going to be crucial to that. It's crucial to the future of South Australia. It's crucial to our prosperity. It's very strongly supported by the State Government. It's very strongly supported by the Federal Government. We'll be doing everything we can to speed up that process so that as time goes by, we've got all the skilled workers that we need to build these terrific new ships into the future.

Journalist: And the Government has indicated that it will support the Malinauskas Government's proposed taskforce to have a look at how we can address those workforce challenges. How do you see that rolling out?

Minister for Trade: It's Peter Malinauskas' idea and it's a good idea. I noticed that Minister Conway today came out very strongly in supporting that. We'll have some discussions with the State Government with a view to making sure that the process starts and that we get the outcome. One of the things about a Free Trade Agreement, for instance, is that it's words on a piece of paper. You've actually got to turn those words into results. You've got to turn it into investment, but more importantly you've got to turn it into jobs. I'm very confident that our new UK Free Trade Agreement will fit nicely in with the Malinauskas Government task force.

Journalist: Can I ask you about China and the nature of the trading relationship between Australia and China? We're hearing reports out of the Riverland that some large grape growers are being advised to potentially plough in their red wine crops because of a glut on the market. Just how much of an impact is the ongoing nature of that relationship having particularly on the wine industry?

Minister for Trade: Look, it's a serious impact. I'm from the Clare Valley and I've seen firsthand some of the things that have been impacted as a result of decisions that China has made in the trade blockages area. I suppose number one is that we try and have a discussion with China. We've made it very clear that we're happy to talk to them about some of these trade blockages. I was pleased to see a couple of weeks ago the new Ambassador say that they're also happy to have some discussions. Time will tell. We're putting out the olive branch to China, to the Chinese Government, saying we're happy to talk with you about these issues. At the moment, these disputes are with the World Trade Organization, but we'd prefer to have bilateral discussions with them to solve these issues.

Journalist: If you've got circumstances, though, where growers basically are being told either don't harvest or plough your crops in, just how important is it to have new markets or expanded markets like you hopefully will get under the FTA with the UK?

Minister for Trade: I think there's no doubt that to some extent, we put all of our eggs in the China basket. Now we've realised that there's got to be trade diversification. So, we've negotiated our Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom and we plan to move full speed ahead with that. We've got an agreement with India and in two weeks' time I'm going to have some discussions with them. I've got discussions next week with the United States about an expanded role for them, particularly in our region, and there's a number of agreements that are being renegotiated as we speak. So, the most important, of course, of those is the ones with APEC.

But the one agreement, the really big one, of course is with the European Union, and next week I'm meeting a delegation from the European Union to have some further talks with them. Negotiations start on 17th October in earnest. That's a population of 450 million people, a $17 trillion market. We need to diversify our trading arrangements and that's what we've set about doing.

Journalist: The British Free Trade Agreement should be fully ratified by the beginning of next year. Are you satisfied with that timeline, or would you have liked to have seen it happen a bit sooner?

Minister for Trade: We would have liked to have seen it a bit sooner and I dare say the United Kingdom Government would have like to have seen it a little bit sooner. I guess it's interesting to note that the person who negotiated this agreement is one of the candidates for the Prime Ministership of the United Kingdom at the moment.

We've got a series of processes, legal requirements that we have to go through. It would have been good had we completed them before the last election, but when the election comes, the whole process stops and has to be recommenced. As I said earlier, we have recommenced it, but there are legal requirements that we need to go through. But I am confident that by the end of the year we'll have done everything we need to do to legally set up that Free Trade Agreement.

Journalist: And on the leadership contest, do you have anyone who you prefer to work with?

Minister for Trade: Look, I think I'll leave that to the people of the United Kingdom. That might be a question you ask –

Journalist: I already tried!

Minister for Trade:

Thanks very much. Thanks for coming along.

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