ABC RN interview

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: CPTPP.
24 January 2018

FRAN KELLY: Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good morning Fran, good to speak with you

FRAN KELLY: Negotiations for a Trans Pacific Partnership began ten long years ago, it's still not signed but it does appear to have been sealed. Is it a done deal?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well as they say it's never a done deal until everyone's ink's drying and we've had the ratification process. But Fran, let's be clear, we have the agreement of officials from all eleven countries. Ministers got very close in Da Nang at APEC last year. And this is an opportunity now for us to cement this, to move forward with what's a great deal for Australia, it's going to really help to boost our exports and it's going to ensure that we continue to drive economic growth and ultimately, Fran, it's all about creating jobs for Australians.

FRAN KELLY: We'll come to what will flow from it. I am interested in how you got Canada across the line, because they didn't show up in Da Nang, just a couple of months ago. They had concerns about automotive sector and protections for cultural products. What did Canada get back in the end to get them back on board?

STEVEN CIOBO: Canada raised some concerns, specifically in relations to some exemptions they were after on the fact that they have a large minority that speak French, and so they wanted some changes in relation to broadcast policies that were outlined in the TPP. They were more reasonable this time around. We were able to find a consensus. We were able to find middle ground. As a consequence, all of the unresolved issues have largely been settled and that's why we've gotten this agreement.

FRAN KELLY: Okay. This deal, if all goes well, will be formally signed in March and then have to be legislated, ratified, by Parliament.


FRAN KELLY: How soon before we see the benefits of the TPP? Can you qualify what those benefits are? We've seen that tariffs for seafood, wine, and manufactured goods, will be abolished. Talk us through the benefits.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well in essence, the main point I'd stress is this is a trade deal between eleven economies that represent some $13.7 trillion worth of economic activity. As it sits now, nearly a quarter of our exports goes to TPP-11 countries. And we have now got a situation where we've got two new free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico, as well as enhanced access into a number of markets. Some of which, of course, we've already got free trade agreements in place. If you take for example, beef, under the TPP-11, Australian beef producers will have increased access with a more rapid decrease in tariffs on beef into Japan. Now this is going to greatly provide a competitive advantage, Fran, to our beef producers with respect to Japan. Certainly, it will be at the expense of US beef producers, who will continue to have higher tariffs than we face. These are the kinds of benefits-

FRAN KELLY: What sort of a time frame are we speaking of there? What's the timeframe for the beef producers and those higher quotas?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, it's difficult to say, specifically. The reason being, Fran, because each country has a legislative process or process they've got to work through, the same way that we do, in their respective Parliaments, or respective governments, so that process needs to take effect, but obviously we want this to happen as soon as it can because all eleven economies are going to be better off, as a consequence.

FRAN KELLY: Our guest is the Federal Trade Minister Steve Ciobo. The original TPP, Minister, attracted plenty of criticism. One of the most contentious causes was the Investor State Dispute Settlements, ISDS, which would have allowed foreign investors, foreign companies, like tobacco companies, to sue governments over policies like plain packaging, that could harm their investment. Now as I understand it, the ISDS has survived, in this revised deal. Does that mean for example, that British American Tobacco can still sue Australia? Can our PBS be attacked over the use of off patent drugs?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, Fran. If there was ever a scare campaign that's been run, it has been the absurd scare campaign around ISDS or Investor State Dispute Settlement. I mean for example, let's be clear, Australia won the action with respect to plain packaging. Now-

FRAN KELLY: But there was still an action.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, and Fran, people could turn around and sue you for defamation this morning. That doesn't mean that they're going to be successful because they decide to bring an action against you. Let's be realistic about what this action means. More importantly Fran, ISDS protects Australian investments abroad. I mean, people always want to conveniently ignore the fact that it actually means ... In fact, if you look at the use of the ISDS, it's been used by Australian businesses overseas far more than it's ever been used against Australia.

FRAN KELLY: The question is though, does the ISDS give governments less ability to regulate big corporations-

STEVEN CIOBO: Absolutely not-

FRAN KELLY: And to bring in our own legislation on issues like, labour laws, environmental standards, even if they would harm corporate interests?

STEVEN CIOBO: Absolutely it does not. We retain the ability to regulate and put in place domestic policy in a range of areas, Fran, including buyer's security, health policy, environmental policy, all of these types of things. That's why I make the point again that this scare campaign against ISDS is absurd.

FRAN KELLY: Is there an agreement on enforceable labour rights, throughout the member countries?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, when you say that what specifically are you referring to?

FRAN KELLY: Well there was concern that labour rights would not necessarily be protected. In fact, they could be the lowest common denominator rights agreement within this agreement.

STEVEN CIOBO: No, of course not, no. I mean, Australia retains the ability to regulate our labour market, as is appropriate. It doesn't mean that there's going to be an invasion of foreign workers who are unskilled or unqualified. I mean frankly, Fran, we saw that kind of rubbish being peddled by the trade union movement with respect to the China Australia Free Trade Agreement. We, unfortunately, saw that disgusting campaign condoned by the Australian Labor Party because it suited them to twist the truth. I can absolutely reassure all listeners that there is no dilution of the Australian Government's or the Australian Parliament's ability to regulate our labour market.

FRAN KELLY: You're there in Davos at the World Economic Forum, where leaders are talking about free trade. In fact, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reported today, has got up and lamented the fact that he said 'protectionism is on the rise' and 'globalization's popularity is waning'. At the same time as this TPP deal was being finalized, Donald Trump was making his first major foray into trade protections slapping tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. What does this say about the US president and America, in terms of being out of step with the rest of the world when it comes to trade?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well Fran, you understand I'm not going to make gratuitous commentary about the President of the United States. He took us through-

FRAN KELLY: Well, I'm talking about American trade policy. I wondered what you think about the direction it's going in?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I'll tell you about Australian trade policy because I'm Australian's Trade Minister and very happy to speak about our trade policy. Our trade policy is to embrace liberalized trade, liberalized investment frameworks, because we know that drives economic growth, and it drives jobs. That's precisely the reason why we saw for example, thanks to the Coalition, putting in place new trade deals, new export deals, with China, Korea, Japan. More recently, with Peru and now this with TPP-11. We're going to give our exporters more opportunity than ever to get preferential market access to critical overseas markets - that's going to help boost our exports, help to boost our economy, and help, most importantly, to boost jobs.

FRAN KELLY: Okay. Can I just ask you finally, China had tried to step into the void of the TPP, it's pursuing its own regional trade pact, 16 nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership called, RCEP. Where does this deal with the TPP that's just been agreed, leave that Chinese trade architecture?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we're at the table on RCEP. Australia's at the table on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. That is potentially another very important trade deal. Fran, I've participated in many discussions and negotiations around RCEP. I'm very hopeful that we'll be able to conclude a high-quality deal with the ASEAN countries, possibly the other six that make up RCEP. Again, more opportunity for Australian exporters to be able to tap into great market access across different economies. You know, I hope this deal happens as well.

FRAN KELLY: Minister, thank you very much for joining us.

STEVEN CIOBO: Great to speak with you.

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