ABC Insiders

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: TPP-11, Queensland election, citizenship, PAFTA
12 November 2017

BARRIE CASSIDY: Good morning.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good morning, Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY: So, what is the status now of the TPP-11, can you get it back on track?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, we have come a long way and I would describe it as 90% completed, we've got certainly the very strong core elements of a deal. And in fact, at one stage we had reached an agreement between the 11 trade ministers, which would see the TPP-11 come into effect. It was then recommended by trade ministers to leaders, and then you've already discussed the consequences of that. So long story short, there are several matters that still remain outstanding that Canada has raised. We will work diligently through those and I'm confident that we will be able to reach an agreement in the not too distant future.

BARRIE CASSIDY: What is the biggest one, what is the biggest sticking point?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, for Canada, the main issue that they have raised is in relation to a cultural exception, they would like to be able to carve out elements of their broadcast policy, for example, to allow for French speaking language. So, we get into sort of, quite a lot of technical detail. There's really, effectively four issues remaining, but the point is Barrie, this has been something that we've been able to put back on the table, we've breathed life back into the TPP-11. I always indicated, the Prime Minister's always indicated this is a good deal for Australia. It helps to drive our economy, it helps to drive job growth and I reinforce the point that Australians ultimately know they have a choice in approach, between the Coalition or Labor, on this issue Labor was wanting to walk away from the table nearly 12 months ago, and they would've left Australia high and dry.

BARRIE CASSIDY: They're reasonable concerns for Canada to raise, aren't they? They've got these- rather unique situation in Canada, with their French speaking population?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, we can accommodate the various positions that are put forward by people. This has always, like any international negotiation, involves a bit of give and a bit of take, but importantly we have done great work on a very important deal, a deal here that, if successfully concluded, would for example, in Australia's interests, give us new market access to Mexico, to Canada, countries with whom we don't have a free trade agreement, as well as give Australian exporters access to market worth some $12 trillion. I mean, that's really significant.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Again, what you're wrestling with is a particle that Trump felt this was Obama's deal – and have you now got a situation where Trudeau is saying this was Harper's deal, that these people inherited it and they don't want it?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I mean that goes into the rationale behind the Canadian Prime Minister's decision. Look, ultimately, he is the only one who will know the reason why. In terms of what's been put forward, I'm very confident and I know that my counterparts in the ten other countries that form the basis of our discussions around the TPP-11, we all feel that we can accommodate the various little crests that are still outstanding, so it's good news. It's going to be good news for Australia.

BARRIE CASSIDY: And what sort of timeline, do you think?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, this is $64,000 question. I will have an opportunity to discuss this at the upcoming WTO meeting in Buenos Aires, in Argentina in December. That's certainly something that we'll work towards, but realistically, having lost a little bit momentum now off the back of the decision by the Canadians not to attend the leaders' meeting on the TPP-11, we will just have to keep working methodically through it, that's what it comes down to.

BARRIE CASSIDY: All right, in the meantime you did manage a bilateral deal with Peru. What part of the Australian economy will benefit most from that?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, some of the biggest beneficiaries will be our agricultural sector. There's no doubt that Peru is, you know, a great market for Australia, it's part of plethora of countries in Latin America that make up a fair, a very fast-growing part of the global economy. You know, we know about the success story that is Asia. We know the Coalition's put in place our trade deals with China, with South Korea, and with Japan. Asia's got strong growth but I'm increasingly now also putting focus on Latin America, Barrie. Because we're seeing really strong growth in Latin America, and in the case of Peru, they have been growing something like 5.9% over the past decade, a population of 30 million people, and important doorway into the rest of Latin America, so these are some of the real opportunities that we've got.

BARRIE CASSIDY: You seem to have done that in quite a hurry, I think it's started in May? But is that because you've used the TPP as template? Sort of just cut and paste material from that, then applied it bilaterally?

STEVEN CIOBO: In large part, we've got what we call a TPP plus outcome, meaning we've got as good as TPP, plus more. I mean, in this case Barrie, we will see inside next five years 99.4% of all goods going into Peru, going in tariff free. We've also got great access on services, which recognises our future as a services export country, particularly with respect to education. Plus, we've got great opportunities around investment, now Peru has a big and very versatile mining sector. Of course, Australia has real competitive strengths in mining, so terrific opportunities in that regard as well.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Now on the citizenship issue, given the chaos that's now ensued from all of this – are we are the point now where the burden of proof really has to rest now with the politicians, that you really just have to start dropping that argument?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, that certainly seems to be the direction in which it's flowing. And I don't think that's necessarily a great outcome to be honest, I don't think it's sufficient to say 'well, you're considered guilty until you prove yourself innocent'. But that notwithstanding, Barrie, I mean and I only, you know, with a surname like Ciobo, I've had a thousand journalists inquiring of me, including David Lipson from the ABC, so I've dutifully shown him, for example, the copy of the letter I got from the Italian embassy, which makes it clear that I'm not and nor have I been an Italian citizen. But you know, what we need to do is have a pathway forward, there's still very big questions that remain around, in particular, some of the Labor Members of Parliament. We've seen where questions have been asked of Coalition members, they've stepped up. You saw it most recently yesterday with John Alexander, and yet we unfortunately, have a situation where people like Justine Keay, Susan Lamb, Josh Wilson – big question marks about the time in which they've renounced or claimed they've renounced their citizenship. And, when held against the standard that the High Court recently set, they would appear to be out. And yet, Bill Shorten has gone missing in action on this issue-

BARRIE CASSIDY: There is a difference that we discussed just before, is that Labor can argue that their people took reasonable steps? They at least tried to do something about it, and to renounce their citizenship. I think in every case on the Coalition side, they hadn't done anything until their names came up.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, there's a big difference here Barrie, the big difference is that, in this case the questions marks over Labor MPs relates to whether they actually knew that they had dual citizenship. But I understand it's been reported, as in the case of Justine Keay, she has admitted that she withheld actually renouncing her citizenship until after the nomination, so that's why there's a big question mark on that. That's a different situation to a situation like John Alexander, where he was oblivious to the fact that, because of the legacy issues, the inherited citizenship, that he had a problem, so I actually think that makes Labor's position even weaker, because you actually have MPs, in this case potentially four Labor MPs, who know they had dual citizenship and who have questions to answer. And yet as I said, on this issue the Labor party has gone absolutely missing in action on their four MPs. And the reason why that is Barrie, is because they want chaos, they don't want this resolved, they would rather play political games, than actually help settle this issue.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But it looks as if all four will be referred anyway, that seems to be the Government's intention.

STEVEN CIOBO: And they should be, and they should be because there's questions there to be answered.


BARRIE CASSIDY: Thanks for joining us this morning, appreciate it.

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