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  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: US Presidential Election; trade deals with US; Paris Agreement.
10 November 2016

LAURA JAYES: Earlier I spoke to the Trade Minister Steve Ciobo.

STEVEN CIOBO: No, the fact is that I think it's probably lesslikely than likely that we'll see the US ratify the TPP, but the fundamentalfact is that if you look at what President-Elect Trump actually said, he saidthat he wants trade deals that are good for American workers, good for America,reduces America's fiscal deficit. Now I want the same thing as Australia'sTrade Minister, I want trade deals that are good for Australian workers, goodfor Australian wages, reduce our fiscal deficit. There's not a rejection oftrade, there's a rejection of aspects of trade -

LAURA JAYES: There was a clear rejection of the TPP, though,because Donald Trump used this as a political argument against Hilary Clintonwho once supported it as well.

STEVEN CIOBO: Yeah, but until the actual Congress itself changesover, there's still the lame duck session, and then there's the inauguration onthe 20th January.

LAURA JAYES: Right so the lame duck session is still the bestopportunity but you're less optimistic about that getting through still?

STEVEN CIOBO: Absolutely. It is the best opportunity, but as Isaid, realistically you would say the TPP, notwithstanding the fact that therebig positives for Australia, is less likely than likely.

LAURA JAYES: Well is there an alternative then? Can it go aheadwithout the United States?

STEVEN CIOBO: No it can't. Without the US, there is no TPP deal.

LAURA JAYES: That's it? Will there be a new deal negotiated withthe other 11 countries, or that's just dead in the water?

STEVEN CIOBO: That's a good question. I'd say that's probablyvery unlikely. We'd need to see the way in which these things ebb and flow overthe next little while, but without the United States in as part of the mix, itfundamentally alters the various considerations that countries have. I suspectthat if they were going to look at trying to revive the TPP in due course,which by the way, President-Elect Trump has left the door open to doing that,then that will be done on the basis of saying, "Well, which aspects of thecurrent trade deal do they want to re-negotiate?"

LAURA JAYES: That seems very optimistic though at this point, aday in. What about the US-Australia free trade deal? As you pointed out inQuestion Time today, it's now 10 years since that has been in place. It's putus in good stead, the US in good stead, but Donald Trump has said that he willreview every single trade deal that the US has struck. Why would Australia beexempt from any review of that?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well a review is different to a re-negotiation, ofcourse. The fact that the US might be-

LAURA JAYES: There's inherent uncertainty in a review.

STEVEN CIOBO: The fact is that our trading relationship with theUnited States is very strong, predicated on a win-win outcome, one that's goodfor Australia, one that's good for the United States. We have seen a biggerincrease in terms of volume of two-way trade between Australia and the US sincethat free trade agreement was put in place, so I'm pretty confident that wewill continue to see a strong vibrant trading relationship between Australiaand the United States.

LAURA JAYES: As you pointed out again in Question Time, 96.1 percent of Australian exports go into the US tariff-free. Are you positive, oroptimistic I should say, that that will remain given the protectionist rantsfrom Donald Trump in the last 12 months?

STEVEN CIOBO: I'm certain that will remain. The reason why I'mcertain, because that's the current agreement, so unless the US wants to tearit up-

LAURA JAYES: That's under review, isn't it?

STEVEN CIOBO: As I said, reviews are different tore-negotiations. So I don't want to get too caught up in wild speculation aboutwhat may or may not be. The fact is we've got a good deal; it's a deal thatworks well for Australia and for the United States. I'm very confident goingforward it's a deal that will remain in place.

LAURA JAYES: What about if the US, and this is more than just areview. Donald Trump has talked about China and the cheap exports flooding intothe United States, and has made it very clear in numerous Trump speeches thathe's going to impose tariffs I think as high as 45 per cent. That would affectAustralia's economy as well, and our trade relationship with China, indeed thewhole region. Wouldn't that be a bit of a schism in all of that?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well again, you're asking me to comment on ahypothetical and the fact is that –

LAURA JAYES: It's not a hypothetical. The Presidency is nowdecided, and this is going to be something surely you need to consider in themonths ahead?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, it's a hypothetical about whether the UnitedStates would actually do that.

LAURA JAYES: You're betting on the fact that Donald Trump isn'tgoing to do what he promised to do?

STEVEN CIOBO: Not at all. Let's be very clear about what it isthat President-Elect Trump said. He said that he would look at particularcourses of action. Not saying he would do it, but he said he would look at it,what the implications of that are. Obviously, the United States in my view isnot going to turn its back on the entire world. The US in my view, the pitchthat President-Elect Trump had with mainstream American voters was aboutsecuring better trade deals. Not turning his back on trade, but securing bettertrade deals. Now I can't see the United States going down the path where theywould turn their back on trading with the world. So if you operate on theassumption that they're going to continue to engage in trade, and they're goingto want to engage in good trade deals, that's why I'm so confident that thearrangements they had with Australia are solid.

LAURA JAYES: But sure, the arrangements with Australia, butagain, going back to the arrangements with China, if these huge tariffs areimposed on Chinese exports, what does it mean for us?

STEVEN CIOBO: I'm not going to entertain that speculation,because we've got to wait and see what happens. At this stage, although there'ssome speculating that that may be where it ends up being, doesn't necessarilymake it so. The fact is that the United States has a number of optionsavailable to it, a number of trade remedies that they can pursue through theWorld Trade Organization and others. The fact that some commentators and peoplespeculate on a particular outcome doesn't make it so. So we'll just have towait and see what comes to pass. I'll be engaging at the earliest opportunitythat I possibly can.

LAURA JAYES: When do you think that might be?

STEVEN CIOBO: In January. I'll be over there for activities thatAustralia runs around G'Day USA, and business weeks around Australia'spromotional exercises in the US, so that will be a chance to hopefully early onin the New Year, be able to engage with the relevant people. We've still got tosee who's likely going to be the US Trade Representative. We've got to seewho's going to be in his Cabinet.

LAURA JAYES: Do you know who that might be, looking at the newsreports around or your travels in the last 12 months?

STEVEN CIOBO: There's lots of speculation, there's three or fournames, but we'll just have to wait and see.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. Finally can I ask you about the ParisAgreement? Without America, is it cactus?

STEVEN CIOBO: This is an interesting situation. Australia's nowtaken our decision, we're doing our part, and we'll have to wait and seeexactly, again, once President-Elect Trump becomes President Trump, what thepolicies of his administration are going to be and what that actually lookslike.

LAURA JAYES: Is it a bit like the TPP? Without America, what'sthe point?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, I don't think it's a case of "WithoutAmerica, what's the point?" A number of countries are committed to doingwhat they can to reduce the CO2 footprint. The implications of a lot of thesethings, it's still early days, and we're just going to allow time to see howthese events will play out.

LAURA JAYES: Given the strong alliance that Malcolm Turnbull wastalking about today, the enduring alliance, the friendship with the UnitedStates dating back almost 100 years in the military sense, what is Australia'srole, do you think, in giving Donald Trump some frank advice? Not everyoneagrees with some of the comments he's made in the last six to 12 months,whether it be about women, whether it be about disabled people, whether it beabout migrants. What is Australia's role given that strong alliance? Do weignore it? Do we not engage? Do we just talk about the positive things?

STEVEN CIOBO: I think people like dealing with Australia becausethey see that we're honest brokers. They know that Australians are frank, we'refriendly, but we're also people that will call it as we see it. That, in myview, has it has served Australia very well for a number of years, and it'spart of the reason we've been able to successfully put in place a whole rangeof important free trade agreements. Frankly, it's also a key reason why theCoalition stands in better stead on this issue with President-Elect Trump than frankly,if the Labor Party was in power. The personal insults that Bill Shorten threwagainst President-Elect Trump during the campaign, I don't think will resonatewell. And the fact is that there is a difference between Malcolm Turnbull'sstatesman-like approach and Bill Shorten's approach, which was to begratuitous, and frankly a little immature for a Leader of the Opposition andthe alternative Prime Minister.

LAURA JAYES: What about John Howard saying he's not Presidentialmaterial? What about Josh Frydenberg saying he's a dropkick?

STEVEN CIOBO: There's a whole host of comments that backbenchersand others have made on Labor's side too.

LAURA JAYES: They're not backbenchers.

STEVEN CIOBO: No, but I'm saying that senior members of the LaborParty have said as well. What I'm focusing on here is the Prime Minister ofAustralia and the alternative Prime Minister of Australia. And I'm saying isthe Coalition's standing in respect of a Trump Presidency and a TrumpAdministration is a more mature stronger relationship, because it hasn't seenthe gratuitous commentary that we saw from Bill Shorten.

LAURA JAYES: There's no evidence though that the TurnbullGovernment is willing to give any frank advice. We saw that from Bill Shortenin Question Time today in quite a respectful way. We saw nothing of the sortfrom Malcolm Turnbull.

STEVEN CIOBO: Let's be honest Laura, we're not about to telegraphwhat we do, or have telecommunications or discussions on all these issues withthe United States through the media.

LAURA JAYES: Minister, thank you.


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