• Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: WTO action against Canada, TPP, Australia Day.
17 January 2018

KIM LANDERS: Minister, good morning.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good morning Kim.

KIM LANDERS: What sort of hit could our wine exports take if this isn't resolved in our favour?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well what we see as a result of what appear to be some protectionist measures that are being put in place, or more protectionist measures that are being put in place in Canada, is that Australia's seeing its market share, in that market, erode. That concerns me, it concerns wine exporters, potentially this could cost Australian jobs; we know the direct connection between exports and Australian jobs. So I want to make sure we're on the front foot about protecting Australia's interests.

KIM LANDERS: Is Australia pursuing this action because Canada, last year, torpedoed plans to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, these are unrelated events. The fact is we have continued to see erosion of, for lack of a better term, liberalised market access into Canada, that's putting Australian wine exporters on the back foot, compared to other competitor countries, in particular compared to domestic Canadian wine producers. That's an unacceptable outcome. Australia is a firm believer in liberalised trade. We know that it improves living standards, it helps to drive economic growth and it helps to provide jobs. I want to make sure that I stand up for Aussie wine exporters. We know we have some of the best wine in the country, sorry the world and I want to ensure that Australian wines have their very best chance of reaping the benefits of export sales in a market like Canada.

KIM LANDERS: So what are Australia's chances of success in this case and how long is it going to take?

STEVEN CIOBO: We've signalled to the Canadians, by initiating this process of formalised consultations, that we are aggrieved over the domestic regulations that they have in place. It sends a very clear shot across the bow to Canada, that we find the approach, in particular a number of the provinces, which have the authority, the jurisdiction for regulating wine sales, that their moves are unacceptable. I also make it clear to the Australian industry that the Australian government will stand up for their rights and their expectations when it comes to generating export sales.

KIM LANDERS: Sticking with broad trade issues for the moment. Malcolm Turnbull is meeting Japan's Prime Minister this week. How high is this revised Trans-Pacific Partnership deal going to be on their agenda?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well it's high because the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is a very important regional trade deal if we can get it up. Australia, as you know, has been pushing this strongly together with a number of other countries, including Japan. We are very focused on the benefits that will flow to Aussie exporters, as a consequence of putting the TPP into effect. We got very close in Da Nang in Vietnam, at the leaders meeting there, and I remain actually quite optimistic that we should be able to, I hope, secure agreement on the TPP in the very near future.

KIM LANDERS: You talk about hope and if we can get it up. Given the US and Canada walked away from the deal, is it futile to keep pursuing it?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well I think it's incorrect to characterise Canada as walking away from the deal, certainly Prime Minister Trudeau didn't sign up to it in Vietnam and that was disappointing-

KIM LANDERS: You reckon he might change his mind?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well I hope so. Certainly I've been, and others, have been putting forward what we believe are compelling reasons why Canada should be at the table. We believe that having effectively got an agreement in place now, there's only a couple of outstanding matters. I'm hopeful that the work that our officials are doing, that Ministers are undertaking with each other, that we can get Canada to the start line, so to speak, or perhaps a better phrase is to get them to the finish line, in the not too distant future.

KIM LANDERS: But taking a case against them over wine exports isn't going to tick them off in those efforts to try to get them back onto the table about the TPP?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, international trade is consistently filled with the various positions that countries adopt in a range of different areas. Australia is sometimes on the receiving end and sometimes we're on the offensive end. In this case, we've got a number of provinces in Canada that are putting in place pro protectionist policies. I'm not going to stand by and see Aussie exporters jeopardised or have their sales put in jeopardy and I want to make sure that we stand up for what are our legitimate rights in the WTO.

KIM LANDERS: You'll meet with your Indian counterpart in Switzerland soon; have talks over a free trade deal with that country stalled?

STEVEN CIOBO: We saw a reshuffle in India around the middle of last year. I had conversations with Minister Prabhu at the time, who indicated he wanted some time to be able to get his feet under the desk and in many respects cast fresh eyes over what it was that India and Australia are trying to achieve together. I of course respect that, and he and I have agreed to re-engage on these discussions early this year and I hope to have discussions with him next week.

KIM LANDERS: Now on another matter, do you think it's worth having a debate about changing the date of Australia Day?

STEVEN CIOBO: My concern with some of the recent commentary that we've seen, is that it effectively is an attempt to de-legitimise the significance and the cultural impact of Australia Day. Now I would acknowledge right at the outset, the deep respect I've got for indigenous Australians, the fact that they're First Peoples and the role that they play. But to suggest that in some way Australia Day should become an excuse to mourn what has happened, that it should down play or de-legitimise what are very valid community expectations that Australia Day is a day for celebration.

KIM LANDERS: What about the expectations for some members of the indigenous community who say it's anything but that?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, you know what, I think the focus is on the wrong things. And what I mean by that is that Australia Day isn't about commemorating or celebrating white oppression or anything like that, it's about what Australia is today. It's a celebration of the values that we share as people. I would put the argument, very firmly, that Australia Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate what binds us as Australians to be a mature country with its face to the world, recognising that in virtually every respect, we punch above our weight. That's what Australia Day is there to celebrate. And frankly I find it concerning that there are those who would seek to de-legitimise Australia Day celebrations by having a revisionists view of the world or in some respects, trying to portray that events that have happened historically should carry more importance than the celebration of the values we all enjoy as Australians.

KIM LANDERS: Alright minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good to speak with you.

Media enquiries