BEN FORDHAM: The man in charge ofnavigating all of this, Steve Ciobo, the Trade Minister. He's on the line.Steve Ciobo, good afternoon.
STEVEN CIOBO: Good afternoon, Ben,great to be with you.
BEN FORDHAM: Is that an unfaircharacterization of little old Australia being stuck in the middle of China andAmerica?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look, I thinkthere's a number of countries who are facing economic headwinds at the moment.And when I say economic headwinds, I mean trade headwinds. But you know what?Australia is proving incredibly resilient, and basically, Ben, to be blunt, it'sbecause we've got a clear plan about how to chart these choppy waters. Nowwe're improving our business competitiveness, we're focused on growing exports,we've seen strong growth, really strong growth in employment in Australia, bigsurges in terms of the amount of exports we're making as a country, so that allrepresents really good news.
BEN FORDHAM: What about the EU?We're still in negotiations there?
STEVEN CIOBO: We've actually onlyjust started, so I've been working on this for some time, and I'm pleased tosay we, as of about a month ago, commenced negotiations with the European Unionfor an FTA. These kinds of developments that we've seen overnight between theEuropean Union and the USA just reinforce precisely why we've got to make surethat we keep Australia at the front of the pack, Ben. And that's what I've beentrying to do. That's what the Prime Minister does, because we need to be at thefront of the pack so we don't have other competitor countries get in front ofus.
BEN FORDHAM: There's real concernabout a flood of foreign workers. Nearly three million asylum applications havebeen submitted to member countries of the EU in the past three years, so howmany of those refugees will Australia accept under our deal, our free tradeagreement?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, mate, this,well, none under the FTA. The FTA has nothing to do with-
BEN FORDHAM: Well, with the dealbetween the EU and Australia?
STEVEN CIOBO: Yeah, well, no. So,that has no bearing on us taking in refugees or anything like that. It doesn'tdeal with that at all, and as you know, Ben, as a Government we've beenabsolutely rock solid in making sure that we get control of our borders again,so we've done that very successfully, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. Nowwe've got complete and total control once again over our migration program,including people claiming to be refugee status. So while we've got that undercontrol, we can, and blokes like me can go and focus on opening up exportopportunities for Australian exporters.
BEN FORDHAM: What does it mean forus, the fact that Donald Trump has done a deal with the EU? It doesn't have abig impact on us?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, they haven'tdone a deal yet. What they've agreed to is to have negotiations and discussionswith a view to doing a deal. So, basically, that's the same as what I'm doingwith the European Union. But bear in mind, mate, that what we did, we'vealready put in place FTAs with China, Japan, Korea. We've comprehensivelyupdated the deal with Singapore, and right now, under negotiation, we're havingdiscussions with the European Union, with Indonesia, with Hong Kong, with ASEANcountries, with countries in Latin America. This is all about making sure thatAustralian exporters can be as competitive as possible, selling into thosemarkets. And that's the success we're having. We're seeing big increases inexports from Australia, and that is driving jobs here in Australia.
BEN FORDHAM: When Donald Trump wasin Great Britain recently, he kind of sounded the alarm on the Brexit and said,"Look, unless you do this properly, as the people voted for, then we'renot going to have a trade agreement with you until that's sorted out."Where is Australia and the UK?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we're the firstcountry that the UK agreed to set up a working group with, with a view tohaving a trade agreement with them once they exit the EU. Now, obviously,things are, let's call it pretty politically fluid over there, so we'rewatching closely to see what's happening in the UK, but when they're in aposition to do a deal with us. We're one of the very first countries thatthey're going to do a deal with, so you know-
BEN FORDHAM: So the Brexit might bebeneficial to us, as opposed to being a problem? We have a deal with Britain.We've got another deal with the EU.
STEVEN CIOBO: Precisely, and that'sexactly what we've been planning on doing.
BEN FORDHAM: Just on China, wereported a little while ago about Australian wine exports being held up on theChinese border, a bit of a go-slow. Other countries were moving through a lotfaster. Aussie wine was being held up. They were talking about billions ofdollars' worth. Any news on that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, Ben, you'drecall at the time, when it was first brought to my attention, I spoke with myChinese counterparts, and we got to the bottom of that and made sure that thewine started flowing again. You know, the great news, Ben, is if you look atthe actual exports of Australian wine to China, it has been absolutely booming.Even in the last 12 months, notwithstanding these delays that you've beentalking about, even in the last 12 months, it's grown by something like 17 percent again. So the fact is, Ben, all this Australian wine that's beingexported, this is powering economic growth here in Australia, and it's poweringjobs in Australia. Now, people in Western Sydney might not see it, but I'lltell you what, mate, they see it in the Hunter Valley, they see it in theBarossa, they see it in the Margaret River. All these great wine-producingareas are seeing extra jobs, because they're now able to export so much wine.
BEN FORDHAM: How are you feelingabout Super Saturday?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, you know what,it's been a long time since the Government has won a seat off the Opposition-
BEN FORDHAM: Oh, you're talking itdown, are you?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I'm just saying-
BEN FORDHAM: Talking downexpectations.
STEVEN CIOBO: I'm not, I'm actuallyjust saying literal truth, which is, it's been nearly 100 years since a Governmentwon a seat off the Opposition. Now, having said all of that, as you know, weare putting our best foot forward. We've got great candidates, but mostimportantly, look, people just have to make a choice. Do they want a Governmentwith a strong plan for our economic future, that's paying down debt, that's gotour budget and our borders back under control? Or do they want Bill Shorten'salternative?
BEN FORDHAM: We'll see how it allpans out on Saturday. You've got a very busy brief on your hands at the moment,so thank you for sparing some time to talk to us, Steve.
STEVEN CIOBO: Glad to speak to you,mate. Any time.
BEN FORDHAM: Steve Ciobo, the TradeMinister, joining us on the line.