CNN, Quest Means Business

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Trans-Pacific Partnership; FTA with the UK; Multilateral Trade Deals
03 May 2017

RICHARD QUEST: Australia's Trade Minister is already in the United States. Steven Ciobo joins me now from Los Angeles. Minister, good to see you. Thank you for coming in and talking to us tonight. On the trade front, I mean, you know, the Vice President's visit to Australia recently, the US Vice President's visit, cleared up the question of the deal over refugees and migrants. So that has been cleared up, to a large extent. A bad deal seen by the President's point of view, but one that they will stick by. So for you, what can be gained on the trade front?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, I think there's terrific opportunity still for Australia and the United States. We're very focused on continuing to build the relationship. We've been allies for many decades. We've got a really strong investment stock, both Australian stock in the US as well as American stock here in Australia. So there's terrific opportunity to keep building on that relationship, keep driving trade. For both countries the more trade and investment we have, the more economic growth, and the more jobs we can drive.

RICHARD QUEST: Are you going to use this opportunity to get TPP, I was going to say, back on the rails again, but only a fool believes that the President would ever put it back on the rails again. Or at least try and get the President back interested in getting some Trans-Pacific trade deal going. Or am I just whistling in the wind here?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I mean, look realistically we were disappointed with the decision the US Government took to withdraw from the TPP, but it wasn't unexpected. President Trump made it very clear that he was going to be withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. From Australia's national perspective we are continuing to focus on opportunities to bring the TPP into force. We think there's a lot of benefits for the region. We think there's a lot of benefits for the 11 countries that remain. So I'm focused on trying to build consensus together with New Zealand, Canada, Japan and others for it to still happen.

RICHARD QUEST: Right, so that's – and would you try and encourage the US to re-engage on TPP?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, I think there's merit to do that, but as I said, I'm also very respectful and mindful of the fact that this Administration has made their position very clear.

RICHARD QUEST: Need to ask you, on a different area, but you know, never miss the opportunity when you've got a Minister in the chair. Brexit. Brexit and the UK. Now obviously a deal with the US is larger and more significant and probably would take precedence. Are you ready to negotiate with Britain the moment the UK is allowed to negotiate, or are you -

STEVEN CIOBO: Absolutely

RICHARD QUEST: Or does the UK go to the back of the line?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, no, look, absolutely we are ready to negotiate. In fact, we've already started down the path. We've set up a working group between the Australian government and the UK government. I've had a number of meetings with Liam Fox the UK Secretary for Trade. As well as, the Minister Lord Price. We have had really warm, cordial discussions, and of course there's a really strong track record there – a historical relationship between the UK and Australia, which we want to build off

RICHARD QUEST: On this question, this larger question, I mean we saw the Doha Round ... I've still got the scars of the Doha Round, which went nowhere. Bilateral trade deals, TPP is gone, TPAC probably won't happen, TTIP won't probably won't happen. Do you think the era of the large multilateral deal has gone? It simply can't be done?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, multilateral is hard. From our perspective it's still the Holy Grail. I mean if we can get an agreement in place among many countries than that's terrific. It's especially good for small to medium sized businesses who want to export, because they get one common set of rules across the board. But, they are really hard to do. In terms of my arsenal, as Australia's Trade Minister, I'll do bilateral deals, I'll do plurilateral deals, I'll do multilateral deals. I want to get the best outcome that we can. And Australia's fortunate because we sit in the fastest growing region in the planet in Asia. We've locked away three really strong and important bilateral trade deals with China, with Korea and with Japan. I'm looking now at parlaying up on that with a trade deal with Indonesia. You know, a very fast growing country, 250 million people, our very near neighbour. As well as putting in place the formal commencement of negotiations with the European Union and the UK. So a lot happening.

RICHARD QUEST: If you're coming to New York to meet the President with your Prime Minister be prepared for the gridlock tomorrow. It will be horrendous in New York. Minister last seen heading in from the airport. Good to see you sir. Thank you.

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