ABC TV, 7.30

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC); Donald Trump; Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
18 November 2016

HAYDEN COOPER: The Trade Minister Steven Ciobo spoke to me from Lima earlier this afternoon. Well Steven Ciobo I'd imagine everyone there is talking about Donald Trump, even perhaps only on the sidelines, but it must be the topic of conversation. Is that the case?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, there's certainly a lot of interest, of course, given the importance of the United States to the global trade framework. There is a lot of interest in terms of what a new Trump Administration might mean, but certainly the overwhelming feeling from having spoken with a number of trade ministers at this APEC meeting is that we need to redouble our efforts about why liberalised trade is good, why it's actually producing higher living standards, creating job opportunities and of course I consistently make the case within Australia about why we need to drive a strong pro-Australia, pro-trade agenda because it's actually the best thing for our country.

HAYDEN COOPER: Given what happened in the US last week, is there a fear there that we are about to enter an era of protectionism?

STEVEN CIOBO: I wouldn't describe it as a fear, no. There's a strong understanding that there are elements in the community and we see this in various locations around the world - people who feel that a liberalised trade agenda, a free trade agenda, hasn't paid them dividends that they were expecting. And I respect that. What we need to do is make sure that we provide trade agreements that are good economy wide, that help to join the dots in terms of the public's mind about why liberalised trade is actually producing better living standards, higher wages, helping people to be in a situation where Australian exporters are getting more access to more markets which is in turn driving investment, driving economic growth and driving job opportunities.

HAYDEN COOPER: Now, you met the US trade representative there today, and bearing in mind of course that he's about to lose his job, but did he offer you any reassurances about the next President?

STEVEN CIOBO: What's clear is the United States especially in relation to the TPP or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the United States ratification process is really a decision of the Congress. As such, it will be congressional leadership - that is Republican congressional leadership - that will make a decision about whether or not the United States ratifies. Clearly, from an Australian national interest perspective, we believe that there are strong benefits that flow from the TPP. I want to make sure that we provide as much support for ratification of the TPP as possible given that it is in the interests, we believe, of all 12 countries. But ultimately it's a decision of the US Congress as to whether or not the United States believes that it's the best deal for them.

HAYDEN COOPER: More generally I'm trying to get a sense of the mood of the US trade representative at the moment given the result of last week.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, generally I think it's fair to say that the United States still sees it has a very positive and important role to play when it comes to international trade. Australia clearly is a country that has benefitted substantially from liberalised and free trade. We've - we are now into our 26th year of continuous economic growth. Now, I recognise that some Australians feel that they haven't been well served by liberalised trade, but part of the key focus that I have, and indeed the Government has, is about explaining how Australian exporters now are getting the opportunity to export to global markets, world's best access to China, to Korea, to Japan. This access is driving a boom in terms of exports, whether that's things like beef or, for example, Australian wine - China has become our biggest wine export market - these are delivering real dividends for the Australian people and they're creating job opportunities.

HAYDEN COOPER: Minister, just finally, what is the mood there at APEC when we consider one of Donald Trump's threats during the election, which was to put a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese goods. What would that do if he followed through on that threat?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I don't see a lot of point in crystal ball gazing to be honest. I think what we need to do is focus on the terrain as it actually sits. Now, it's still very early days in terms of a new Trump Administration. It's still very early days in terms of the new US Congress. So, I understand that there's a lot of interest about what the United States might do, but what I'm actually focused on is what they are actually doing and what they're actually doing I think we've got to allow some time to elapse. We've got to see ultimately where a new Trump Administration decides to go with respect to trade policy, and fundamentally, we've got to safeguard Australia's interests. We have to safeguard Australian workers, we've got to safeguard the Australian economy and that means pursuing trade agreements that are good for Aussie exporters and good for Australian workers.

HAYDEN COOPER: Okay, Minister thank you very much for joining us.

STEVEN CIOBO: It's a pleasure.


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