Sky News, AM Agenda
KIERANGILBERT: Joining me now for reaction to that andsome other issues, the Trade Minister, Mr Ciobo. Thanks very much for yourtime. What are your thoughts on what Barack Obama had to say there? It must beencouraging for Australia and our Government to hear that that is the view ofMr Trump as he prepares to take the White House.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, it really re-enforces what I'vesaid now for the last week or so Kieran, which is that we need to see thepolicies that are rolled out by President-elect Trump. In many respects, it'svery clear that the United States isn't abandoning the world. It's notabandoning the playing field. They'll still be there on issues like trade.They'll still be there on issues like defence and I think that that isimportant.
KIERANGILBERT: In terms of trade, we know that theTrans-Pacific Partnership though while agreements that had been secured, MrObama says the tradition is that successive administrations honour them, theTPP is one that is not going to be secured. You disappointed at that resultdespite the Government maintaining some hope in recent weeks?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well look it is a disappointingoutcome. I mean it's not definitely dead in the water although increasingly itwould appear unlikely. But that said, the fact is that the Trans-PacificPartnership did provide, for the 12 countries involved, lower barriers totrade. It would have opened up additional export markets for Australia. Itwould have helped to drive the Australian economy and drive Aussie jobs andwages. Now that opportunity would appear unlikely to now be realised, but wehave other pokers and other fires. We'll continue to pursue preferential marketaccess into key markets for Australian exporters into the future.
KIERANGILBERT: Yeah and one of those or the couple ofthem involve China. One of them is the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific. Theother one there the Regional Cooperation and Economic Partnership which is sortof a parallel or rival proposal to that of the US-led TPP, which, as you say,looks unlikely now. Are those agreements or proposed agreements now going totake your focus despite the fact that they are largely Chinese led, certainlythe second one that I mentioned there?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well China is Australia's largesttrading partner. We obviously have a lot of investment, a lot of trade, a lotof services trade with China. It's a key part of the reason why Australia hasenjoyed strong economic growth. Let's be very, very clear about this Kieran. Ifit was not for the fact that we as a Coalition Government have opened up tradeopportunities for Australian exporters, if we hadn't opened up these newmarkets for Australian businesses to export into, our economic growth would notbe as strong as it is today. Employment opportunities for Australians would notbe as strong as they are today and that's why it remains a central focus forthe Coalition Government to continuing, to continue opening, I should say,preferential market access into key markets. The Regional ComprehensiveEconomic Partnership is part of it. We can have a look at, in time, what thearchitecture around a Free Trade Area for the Asia Pacific will look like, butthese are all positive steps, good for driving economic growth, good foremploying Australians, good for driving investment into Australia.
KIERANGILBERT: Well, even though that that Chineseproposal for a Regional Economic Partnership has got strategic implicationsbecause like the Prime Minister said the TPP was the economic arm of Obama'spivot to Asia, so too is the RCEP as it's known. It's seen as strategically,it's got implications for Chinese presence in the region as well.
STEVEN CIOBO: Kieran, I'm loathed to disagree withyou but I don't want to sort of dumb it down to the extent that is a USA versusChina thing. That's not what's going on here. The Regional ComprehensiveEconomic Partnership is more than 50 per cent of the world's population. It'sgot major markets like China and India in it. Australia with its relativelysmall population, 23 million, is well placed to have Australian businesses,Australian exporters having access into very significant markets. I mean, thatis really what lay at the very core of these market opportunities for Aussiebusinesses.
KIERANGILBERT: We're seeing this report by Lisa Murrayin the Financial Review this morning though that the Chinese are increasinglyseeing Australia as in important partner if Trump does move away from the freetrade agenda, that Australia is an increasingly important partner inprosecuting the case that you made this morning. Do you welcome that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, of course. The fact is thatAustralia is a country that has a very favourable look on - a very favourableoutlook, I should say, on opportunities in relation to additional exports. AsI've made clear Kieran, we are enjoying high levels of economic activity, moreemployment opportunities for Australians, more investment across the Australianeconomy which is crucial for getting Australians jobs and we're enjoying thatbecause we have got access into markets like China, into markets like SouthKorea, markets like Japan. The deal that we've done recently as a Coalition Governmentwith Singapore, all of these are driving the Australian economy forward andcreating employment opportunities for Australians. This is part of my concernI've got to say about the most recent comments that Bill Shorten and Labor havemade. We saw today Kieran for an economy that is 75 per cent services, whenfour out of every five jobs in Australia are services related jobs, we've seentoday Bill Shorten threaten the very future of services exports from thiscountry with this ridiculous hypocritical position that Labor has adopted inrelation to 457 visas. I mean, Bill Shorten is in many respects the father ofthe 457. We saw a huge surge in 457 visas under his leadership when he was theresponsible minister and now all of a sudden he says, "Oh no I don't like457 visas". I mean, this is a fundamental part of Australia's servicesexports into the future and the Labor Party is threatening that.
KIERANGILBERT: Mr Ciobo, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo,thanks for your time.