Sky News AM Agenda

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Singapore Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA)
13 October 2016

KIERANGILBERT: I spoke to the Trade Minister, SteveCiobo, about the enhanced trade agreement with Singapore.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, it's unique in the sense thatthis is the most comprehensive deal we've been able to strike with Singapore.It's a deal that really does advantage Australian service providers especially.Both Singapore and Australia have highly mature, developed economies. Servicestrade is going to be the best opportunity for Australia. It's 75 per cent ofthe Australia economy, about 80 per cent of everyone's jobs is in the serviceeconomy, so that's the big in road. It's also, of course, a stronger strategicalliance in terms of where we sit with respect to our defence forces, the factthat we're sharing training facilities is also what we've been able to do inrelation to better investment in each country.

KIERANGILBERT: So the strategic partnership, as it'sdescribed, obviously, it's got the defence compartment, but is it inextricablylinked to the economic arm as well of this deal, is that how it works?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, they're both separate. Obviously,the defence side of things is separate to what we've been able to do on theservices –

KIERANGILBERT: But one has led to the other, do youthink?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, it was just an opportunity for usto revitalise the relationship between Singapore and Australia and make it evencloser. We've historically got very strong ties, and both Prime Ministersalluded to that yesterday and spoke, in fact, directly about it. So this is achance for them to go another step forward.

KIERANGILBERT: The more you look at the tradeagreements in our region, we've got a number of burgeoning trade relationshipselsewhere as well, it makes me ask the question, what then do we gain from theTrans-Pacific Partnership arrangement? Because aren't we then just allowing theNorth American producers into our patch where we've already got good bilateraltrade agreements?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, not at all. Look, this tapestry offree trade agreements that the Coalition has put in place is because of ourfundamental belief and knowledge that by getting world's best preferentialmarket access into key markets for Australia, that's good for our economy andwe know that free and liberalised trade is helping to power the Australianeconomy and Kieran, people shouldn't be dismissive of this. Part of the reasonwhy Australia has enjoyed 25 years of continuous economic growth, part of thereason why we have an economic growth record that's the envy of the developedworld, is because we've been able to underscore our economic growth and supportour economic growth by world's best preferential access.

KIERANGILBERT: We've got arrangements with a number ofthe signatories already of the TPP, so these bilateral deals, they're alreadythere. Why then is the TPP in our benefit – just to let the Canadians and theAmericans in?

STEVEN CIOBO: It's not a case of letting theCanadians and the Americans in. These things are always win-win outcomes andit's a real mistake to view them as who wins and who loses? The fact is thatwhat we're doing is securing better market access to 11 other countries. That'swhat we've been able to do. Plus, the Trans-Pacific Partnerships is a verymodern free trade agreement in so far as it includes the digital economy. 10years ago, the digital economy was nothing like it is today, and we've beenable to update the agreement under the TPP, so that it's a very modern freetrade agreement.

KIERANGILBERT: And how much is it about China, is thisdeal, about trying to provide a defensive buffer for Singapore, obviously, morerelevant to them than us, and Australia in terms of the rise of China?

STEVEN CIOBO: It's not about China. This is a dealabout Australia and Singapore. This is a deal that recognises that bothcountries have complementarities between our two economies, in other words,it's a win-win outcome and that's what we're focused on. It's not about China.We've got a free trade agreement with China, we've got a free trade agreementwith Korea and Japan. This was aboutdriving forward that relationship between Singapore and Australia.

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