Sky News with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Trade and investment with South Korea, Gas supplies, Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
Location
Seoul, South Korea
13 October 2022

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Welcome back to the program. Let’s go live to Seoul, in South Korea. I’m joined live by the Minister for Trade, Don Farrell. Minister, thanks for your time. I know you’ve had a series of discussions in recent days, first in Japan, now in South Korea, including with your South Korean counterpart Minister Lee Chang-yang. He has apparently said that he will push for South Korean investment in our industries, particularly in critical minerals. How much scope is there for that sort of thing? What are the projects like for trade between our two nations in that area?

MINISTER FOR TRADE, DON FARRELL: It’s good to be with you, Kieran. Look, this is the first time we’ve successfully managed to get a meeting with Minister Lee. He’s a very important person in the Korean Government. He appreciates that Australia is the largest supplier of critical minerals – or has the largest reserves of critical minerals in the world. He’s keen to work with us in order to develop those resources, value-add those resources and have those resources transported to Korea to continue to build the Korean economy.

KIERAN GILBERT: One of the things that we have already established with Korea, Japan and others in the region are gas exports. We’re seeing this erupt right now. As a Trade Minister, how do you see this issue given, well, your colleague Ed Husic says that the gas producers have got to start listening to the government’s demands to provide an appropriate price to manufacturers and consumers here and not the same price that they’re delivering to our trade partners?

MINISTER FOR TRADE: I’ve been working closely with Resources Minister King. I think she’s been doing a terrific job in this space. She was left with a really difficult set of issues, a difficult set of problems. I think her recent Heads of Agreement with all of the east coast gas providers is the way to go. She’s secured a lot more gas for domestic use, particularly as we come into winter next year. That in itself I think will push pressure down on gas prices.

Of course, we’ve just seen in the last few days further actions, quite unjustified actions, by Russia. It’s a difficult time in the energy sector. We’ve got a series of difficult problems to solve. I’m extremely confident that our Ministers, working collectively will ensure that we get those long-term prices down. But it’s important that we give some guarantees, particularly to Korea and Japan, that we will continue to be a reliable supplier of conventional energy.

One of the reasons for that, Kieran, is that we’re looking for investment from both Japan and Korea to establish ourselves as a renewable superpower into the future. In the past they’ve been prepared to invest in conventional energy sources in Australia. We want them investing in the energy of the future, and that’s critical minerals, that’s hydrogen, that’s ammonia.

So, interestingly, I’m up here with Premier Peter Malinauskas, and he’s also pushing investment. The message I got from Minister Lee in Korea yesterday was that they’re interested in continuing to invest in Australia. They know we’re a reliable trading partner and that we’re a stable trading partner. I’ve been telling them that there might have been a change of government, but we continue to be a stable country and we want their investment to create that energy superpower of the future.

KIERAN GILBERT: Just – only 2 minutes left, but if I could get a quick one on the possibility of a price cap for gas producers? Are you saying that you don’t think that that’s necessary? That that extra supply will be enough to drive down prices sufficiently?

MINISTER FOR TRADE, DON FARRELL: What I’m saying, Kieran, is that I’ve got great confidence in Minister King. She’s a terrific Minister. She’s got a very, very tough job, and a very tough portfolio. The Liberals left a whole lot of problems in this space, and I’m really confident that she can work through all of these issues, so that on the one hand we have enough gas to supply Australian consumers, but on the other hand we honour all of our international obligations to create a stable environment for the export and investment in these new technologies in Australia.

KIERAN GILBERT: Just finally – only a minute to go – quickly if I can get your thoughts on this, because it’s a big news story – Australia has been selected to host the next round of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. That’s that body set up by Joe Biden as part of an effort to maintain US economic influence in our region. Why is that important for Australia to host?

MINISTER FOR TRADE, DON FARRELL: Look, it’s vital. I actually made that offer when I was in Los Angeles, and I think I spoke to you about that from there. We need American re-engagement, and in particular, we need to diversify our trading arrangements. That means not putting all of our eggs in the China basket, as we’ve done over the last 10 years, and finding new markets.

That’s one of the things I’ve been doing today with Wine Australia – promoting Australian wine products into the Korean market. We have to look at a whole range of new markets to sell our products so that we are never again in a situation where we’re beholden to one particular market. IPEF is the best thing, the best vehicle to do that.

KIERAN GILBERT: Trade Minister Don Farrell, thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it. Live from Seoul.

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