• Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: US Presidential Election; APEC; Coalition’s National Economic Plan.
10 November 2016

ROS CHILDS: Australia's ambassador to Washington Joe Hockey isleading a government-wide charm offensive to senior Republicans in an effort toforge closer ties with the incoming Trump administration. Australian ministerswill also be told to join the campaign. One of them is the Trade Minister,Steve Ciobo, who's outlining the Government's strategy to our national affairscorrespondent, Greg Jennett.

GREG JENNETT: Steve Ciobo, I'm not sure what your Republicancontact book looks like, but when the time arises, how does the AustralianGovernment take steps to make sure that it gets off on the right foot with theTrump team?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well we'vehad of course great advocacy from our ambassador over there, Joe Hockey. Joe'sbeen in tight with both the Clinton campaign team and of course the Trumpcampaign team-

GREG JENNETT: Didn't fall into that trap of backing in orfavouring one side, which was the establishment view, wasn't it, around theDemocrats?

STEVEN CIOBO: Not at all.Well look I mean Joe was meticulous about making sure that we maintain goodrelations, as you would expect of our ambassador in the United States to do.His relationship with Chris Christie, one of the key people drivingPresident-elect Trump's campaign team is I think going to place Australia verywell. What we'll see over the weeks and months ahead of course though so is anopportunity to engage. We'll start to see who some of the key personnel aregoing to be, and from that, we'll be able to ascertain who we can engage withon a meaningful basis going forward.

GREG JENNETT: And you yourself will be going to an importantregional trade meeting in Peru, I think the APEC gathering. Have you any fearsthat it might wither or the US might disengage from that process whichAustralia started under a Trump presidency?

STEVENCIOBO: Look, I just don't see the United Stateswithdrawing from the world. I know some paint that 'Doomsday' picture; I don'tthink that's going to come to pass. What we'll see and what we will be able todo is calibrate, going forward, what it is that a Trump administration is goingto have as their key foreign policy pillars. We'll of course continue to engage.The fact is that Australia and the United States has got a really goodrelationship. We've got a relationship built on common values and a commonapproach.

GREG JENNETT: Yes he does seem to have singled out the Australiaalliance in all its forms as something that he doesn't object to, compared toother regional relationships. But on our free trade agreement, might there beretaliatory triggers in there that jeopardise that agreement if he justunilaterally puts tariffs up?

STEVEN CIOBO: Greg, Ithink it's important that people don't start hyperventilating. The fact is thatwe have a great trading relationship with the United States. We have a greatrelationship, full stop, with the United States. I'm very confident that we'llcontinue to engage fulsomely. I don't believe that a Trump presidency is goingto mean, as I said, that the United States withdraws from the world. That won'tbe the case. If you look closely, what President-elect Trump said during thecampaign, he made the point that he wanted trade deals that were good forAmerica, good for American wages, good for American workers. You know what? Weshare that in terms of Australia's values. We want trade deals that are goodfor Australian workers, good for Australian wages. So it's not a case ofwithdrawing from the playing field, it's a case of making sure they get a goodoutcome.

GREG JENNETT: And relative to other trade deals like NAFTA, whichhe really abhors, is it your view that there's not much about our traderelationship that threatens America? We're junior in the overall scheme ofthings when it comes to trade.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, our relationship with the United States isproducing and yielding win/win outcomes. That's what's good about Australia andthe United States trade relationship. It's good for America, it's good forAustralia. We're both beneficiaries from that trading relationship.

GREG JENNETT: Now, let's go to domestic politics and theimplications if any here. You said after Brexit and you're saying after thisresult that politics has to listen and understand the disaffected. If that'sthe case, why would an unemployed person in Gladstone or Townsville beattracted to politics when you're offering multi-billion dollar tax cuts tobusiness, 10 year enterprise tax cuts, centrepiece of your Government'seconomic policy?

STEVEN CIOBO: Because fundamentally Australians know, and this isI believe the reason why they elected us at the last election, they elected usbecause they know that we need to be competitive. They know that our businesses- and it's not just big business here - it's small and medium sized businesses,small and medium enterprises, Greg, are what drive the Australian economy, soas much as ...

GREG JENNETT: Do you think that message is getting through,though?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I'm delivering the message again now. I mean,as much as people want to say, "Oh, is this just about multinationals?" Ofcourse it's not. In fact, the bulk of it is about small to medium sizedbusinesses, and you know what? That's where Australians work. That's where theyget the money to pay their mortgage down, so what does it mean for someone inGladstone? What does it mean for someone in Townsville? It means that theyhave, if they've got a job, the chance to stay in their job, and if they don'thave a job, it gives them the prospect to get a job in the future.

GREG JENNETT: But for that to become real and for you to reappolitical benefit from that, they have to start hiring. There's not a lot ofevidence that one flows from the other, tax cuts lead to higher employment inrecent times.

STEVEN CIOBO: No, but this is about creating the right economicconditions, and the fact is that when we're losing competitiveness becausewe're taxing too much, then that sees people go somewhere else. They say,"I'm not going to do that because I'm going to get taxed too much."We see it globally. That's the reason why we're putting a focus on making usmore tax competitive, but at the same time, Greg, we've put a lot of focus onmaking sure that the really big businesses, the multinationals, have to paytheir fair share of tax and we've done that through, of course, our focus onwhat's called 'base erosion and profit shifting', but in other words, we say,"You can't just shift money offshore". In fact, we've put in under TreasurerScott Morrison, an extra penalty for businesses that try to do that.

GREG JENNETT: So no hitting the brakes, no wholesale policychanges in Australia in light of these events that we're seeing around the -?

STEVEN CIOBO: We will always listen to the feedback from theAustralian population, but we have a clear national economic plan to drive jobsand growth and that's what we're focused on delivering.

GREG JENNETT: Alright. Steve Ciobo, thank you.


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