Sky News Business, Switzer

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Free Trade Agreements with the United Kingdom, European Union and Indonesia; Malcolm Turnbull Ministry
13 September 2016

PETER SWITZER: Well let's just have a quick chat. One of the first questions I want to ask you, Steve. I know you've been in Britain, and apparently you were just big news all the time over there. Why was Britain so interested in Steve Ciobo?

STEVEN CIOBO: Mate, not for one second do I think they're interested in me. What the excitement is in the UK is, now that they've made the decision to exit the European Union, they're really focused on what the opportunities are. Now, we've got really strong historical ties, as you know, Peter, between the UK and Australia, and so I was there to indicate that once they formally exit the European Union, Australia wants to make sure we can do a free trade agreement. An agreement that's going to be great for their exporters, great for our exporters, great for investors on both sides. Ultimately, that's what helps to drive the UK economy, the Australian economy, and of course I'm very focused on what that means for Australians jobs.

PETER SWITZER: Yeah, okay, but what are the opportunities over there, Steve?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, I think there's quite a number. One, it's a big market. The UK is already, of course, a key market for Australian investment abroad, as well as a key market for UK-based funds and others to invest into Australia. So we already have that strong relationship around investment, but in particular we've got tremendous opportunity if you take one of the iconic Australian exports, which is Australian wine. At the moment, you can understand that we export good volumes to the UK, but they get a lot of wine from the Italians and from the French. I would love to be able to give them great Australian wine at a price that is much more competitive. And that way, that's going to be great for driving Australian exports, great for meeting more employment in Australia, and great for all those Australians, small and medium, and even the big Aussie businesses that are in the wine industry, and I just cite that as one example.

PETER SWITZER: Okay. What is the likely outlook - now remember this, we all know, Brexit's only been voted on, there's been no real change - but what is the outlook for our agricultural businesses, beef and wheat and all that stuff?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well with the UK, we've got to see – I mean, there's a long way to go. Obviously, I'm Australia's Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister; I want to make sure I pursue Australia's national interest as strongly as I can. There is, of course, opportunity if we do a good free trade agreement with the UK. Bear in mind, Peter, that won't be for about two, two and-a-half years, but if we are able to put that in place, then that will provide opportunity for Australian agricultural exports. But it's also a key part of my focus all around the world. We've got in place the free trade agreements with China, with South Korea and Japan. I'm pursuing a very ambitious timetable with respect to Indonesia, our trade relationship with Indonesia is underweight, and we've got, again, scope to be able to do something very concrete on agriculture with respect to Indonesia, too. So these are all areas that I'm focused on.

PETER SWITZER: What are the chances of us really netting a big dividend out of Indonesia?

STEVEN CIOBO: I think pretty high. I actually had meetings this afternoon with Indonesia's ambassador to Australia. Those build on conversations I had with Indonesia's trade minister, Minister Lukita and before him, Minister Lembong. We've got a lot of goodwill. I've got to say that everyone knows that the relationship between Indonesia and Australia has been particularly strong now under the Coalition. If you go back a few years under Labor, we of course had the problem when Labor, overnight, in a kneejerk reaction, banned live cattle exports. That upset the Indonesians a lot. We've now moved on from them. Our relationship is back to being very strong. Indonesia is as committed to a solid trade relationship as Australia is, because we know that there's complementarities, both with their economy and our economy which will help to drive Aussie exports, help to drive Aussie jobs, and be good for Indonesia, too.

PETER SWITZER: Alright, Steve, my rodeo and Sky News colleagues, Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones have been posing the question, "What has the PM achieved over the last year?" And I'd love you to give your contribution. Personally, I think it's an interesting correlation that since he's become Prime Minister, the economy has done very well. Economic growth's gone from 2.5 per cent to 3.3 per cent Business confidence is up, consumer confidence is up, new car sales are record high. I'm doing the job for you, but what else has he done?

STEVEN CIOBO: I was actually happy for you to keep going, Pete.

PETER SWITZER: I've got more here. I've got more here, by the way. 14 out of 19 industries are expanding. I laugh at the fact that people don't seem to appreciate that the economy's got better. Even though Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey didn't do as bad a job as Labor made out, the reality is this economy is miles better than it was a year ago.

STEVEN CIOBO: Peter, look. I mean, if I had to nominate one thing, I would focus on that issue of economic growth, because the fact is that at 3.3 per cent economic growth, I mean that is a standout, an absolute standout, among all the developed economies around the world. And the key aspect about economic growth, Peter, and you would know this as well as small, medium-sized business operators that are watching, what it takes is confidence. Confidence underscores, and in many respects, reinforces what we can do on the economic growth front. Now the good news is that under Prime Minister Turnbull, we've seen a real shot in the arm when it comes to consumer confidence, business confidence, business investment confidence, and all of those together work to make sure that our economic growth has reached what is a very solid 3.3 per cent. And the reason that's so important is because that economic growth underpins job growth as well, and if we're going to do anything about paying down debt, paying down the deficit, getting Australia back on to a sustainable fiscal footing, we've got to do it with strong economic growth.

PETER SWITZER: Alright, mate, thanks for joining us. Get back there and do your voting. It's pretty important nowadays.

STEVEN CIOBO: A pleasure. Thanks, Peter, have a great night.

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