Press conference, Adelaide

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia-New Zealand trade agreement, relationship with China.

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: We’ve just had a terrific meeting with my New Zealand counterpart, Minister O’Connor. In lots of ways we share some common history – both of us came from the old world, from Ireland, and both of us came to the new world. I came to South Australia and the Minister came to New Zealand, and later on this afternoon, the Minister and his partner have accepted an invitation to come to our vineyard in the Clare Valley. Named after the County of Clare in Ireland, where he’s going to experience some of the best food and wine that Australia has to offer. So we’re very much looking forward to his visit, and that comes off the Minister’s very kind invitation to myself and my wife to Queenstown last year.

This is the second time we’ve had this important meeting between Australia and New Zealand, and I think it’s a reflection of the really close ties and the growing closeness between our two countries, our peoples, and more importantly, from a trade point of view our economies.

This year, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the trade agreement between our two countries. It’s a gold standard agreement in terms of all of our free trade agreements - the one between Australia and New Zealand - because of its comprehensive nature. It’s an extremely comprehensive agreement. Australia and New Zealand share close bonds of history, geography, values and friendship. My grandfather fought in World War I and many of the people he was fighting with in France were, of course, New Zealanders.

It’s important that our trade relationship remains agile and responsive to evolving priorities and an increasingly dynamic world. Last month in Wellington the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Albanese, and Prime Minister Hipkins agreed to conclude a sustainable and inclusive trade declaration. Today the Minister and myself have signed that declaration which modernises our relationship under our trade agreement, and amplifies our trade commitments right across a wide range of areas of economic collaboration. This particularly includes exploring opportunities for greater cooperation in the area of climate change and, of course, promoting First Nations Trade.

So on that note I’ll invite Minister O’Connor to say a few words.

New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O’Connor: Kia Ora, and thank you to Senator Farrell, or my good friend Don. It’s a pleasure to be here in Adelaide to discuss our shared trade interests. I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Kaurna people, and just say thank you once again to Uncle Mickey O’Brien who welcomed me here and to Adelaide.

Look, we have common interests grounded in geography, history, values, political institutions and, of course, our shared commitment to the Pacific. CER, as Mr Farrell said, is now 40 years on, and it’s been a phenomenal success. It is seen as actually not just a gold standard; I would suggest a platinum standard of trade agreements around the world. And many other countries aspire to the close relationship that we have across our Tasman.

New Zealanders invest more in Australia than any [inaudible] is for our small and medium enterprises. New Zealand is Australia’s second largest source of tourists, so we like to come across the ditch, as we say. And Australia, of course, is New Zealand’s second biggest destination for exports, our largest source of foreign investment, the biggest source of tourists and usually the first export market of choice, as I said, for our small and medium enterprises.

These are all great measures of our close economic relationship. However, we cannot get complacent. Our next step must be to build on CER so that the trade and economic relationship responds to the challenges of the decade, the challenges including to a lower emissions economies – a lower emissions world that we must live in.

We’ve heard that business have told us that we need to ensure that CER and the single economic market reflects the realities of modern trade and investment and supports our shared goals, as I said, of a sustainable, inclusive and resilient economies.

Following on as Mr Farrell said from the announcements in July, of our Prime Ministers, I’m pleased to say that we have signed the sustainable and inclusive trade declaration. It’s an important step to maintaining, as I say, that positive outcome in these areas.

Pushing ahead new areas of integration we – will continue to be a focus for us all. We must ensure that the single economic market continues to make – to doing business across the Tasman and Australia and New Zealand is easier and, indeed, delivers benefits for all of our people.

So we must continue to do our best as Trade Ministers to meet like this. I must say, I look forward to a day so in the Clare Valley. We have a great working relationship I have to say, and when it comes to other international for a, New Zealand and Australia work together for the greater good of not just our part of the world but actually the greater good across the world. So thank you very much, Don. Pleased to be here.

Minister for Trade: Okay, thank you, Minister. And I’ll invite questions from – yes, Paul?

Journalist: Senator Farrell you mentioned First Nations and climate change opportunities. What export opportunities do you see from Australia in those areas?

Minister for Trade: Well, as you know, we have embarked upon a trade diversification strategy. We've learned from bitter experience the problems of just relying on one large market. In the last few months of course, we’ve signed new free trade agreements with India, we signed a new free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, and maybe one day we’ll follow the New Zealand path of signing a free trade agreement with the Europeans.

I think our strategy shouldn’t be to reduce our exports into the Chinese market; our strategy has to be sell more to those countries that we already sell to, and already have good relations. So from my point of view what I’d like to see is New Zealand take more of our wonderful food and wine, and I’m pretty confident that after a couple of days in the Clare Valley Minister O’Connor will be going back and telling all of his colleagues in New Zealand just how fabulous the food and wine is. And not only will they be wanting to buy more Australian food and wine, they’ll be wanting to come as tourists. As you might have noticed yesterday, China has put us in a more favourable position in terms of bringing Chinese tourists. Well, we’d love lots of extra New Zealand tourists as well.

Journalist: How significant is the move from China to allow tours to return to Australia?

Minister for Trade: It’s extremely significant. China used to be our largest source of tourists. There used to be about 1.5 million Chinese tourists coming to Australia. That dropped to a triple post the pandemic. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Chinese tourists, who we know want to come back. We’ve recently relaunched our Come and Say G’day campaign in China, and we think that this gives us a wonderful opportunity to get those Chinese tourists back to Australia. We know they want to come. Part of this arrangement is coming as group tours, and it’s worth about half a billion dollars if you look at 2019 figures. So we want to see those Chinese tourists come back in large numbers.

Journalist: On another matter, when was the last time a presentation was made to Chinese [indistinct] regarding the detainment of Cheng Lei?

Minister for Trade: I’ve met with my Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao on three occasions, and on each of the occasions I’ve met with them, I have raised this issue. It’s a heartbreaking set of circumstances, and for her not to be able to see her family for the last three years is just terrible. On each and every occasion that an Australian Minister or Prime Minister meets with our Chinese counterpart we raise these issues. The Foreign Minister does on each and every occasion, and we’ll continue to do that, including in the event that the Prime Minister makes a trip to China. We’ll continue to advocate on behalf of Australians who are currently under arrest in China.

Journalist: Has her treatment, though, been a consideration with trade negotiations in China?

Minister for Trade: No, this is not a transactional arrangement. We have embarked on a program to stabilise our relationship with China. We started out with something like $20 billion worth of trade impediments, and bit by bit, including the barley announcement in the last couple of weeks, we have gradually reduced that. But there are still some significant impediments. They especially relate to South Australia – wine, lobster, and to a lesser extent beef. We will continue to pursue that trade stabilisation until all of those impediments are removed, but it’s not a transactional arrangement. We expect China to comply with its obligations under the World Trade Organisation and we want to see all of those trade impediments removed. We thank New Zealand very much for its support of Australia in all of these issues.

Journalist: Another matter: when were you notified about Malaysia’s decision to halt cattle and buffalo imports, and when will it resume?

Minister for Trade: Well, the fifth point I’d make, is that we believe we are disease free in Australia and that we have not exported products with them. In particular, lumpy skin disease. That’s the issue that’s related here. The Agriculture Minister would be able to tell you exactly when we were notified by Malaysia, but we believe that through proper investigation we can establish to the satisfaction of both the Indonesian and the Malaysian government that there is no problem at all with Australian beef.

If there’s no further questions, thank you for coming along.

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