CNN International – Quest Means Business

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia






Australia-US trade relationship, refugee resettlement deal

PAULA NEWTON: Republicans in Congress have begun drawing the curtains on President Obama’s term in office. According to the House majority leader, they are asking government agencies not to work on any new regulations between now and Donald Trump’s inauguration. Now a memo from Trump’s transition team says the President-elect will start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement on day one in the White House. And he also hopes to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership deal in his first 200 days in office. Australia’s Opposition Labor party said the TPP should be put on hold indefinitely. Australia’s one of twelve countries involved in deal. The Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann joins me live from Melbourne. And sir, we talk about putting it on hold. I mean is TPP just completely dead at this point. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: You would have to assume it is highly unlikely that it will proceed, which from an Australian point of view is a shame because we do think it is a good agreement, which delivers benefits for people across all twelve countries and would be a boost to global economic growth. But we respect the result at the election in the United States. There is some work to be done moving forward.  

PAULA NEWTON: Australia obviously a trading nation, you rely heavily on trade. Do you expect to be caught in the crossfire if a trade war between China and the US erupts?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We are an open trading economy. The United States and China are two of our most important trading partners. It is always important to ensure that any trade relationship is very much based on a win-win outlook. That is certainly the way that we approach our trade relationships with the United States and with China. 

PAULA NEWTON: But how are you approaching Trumponomics, clearly in your office, when you saw the result, everything must have changed. You must have shifted your paradigm. It wouldn’t have been responsible not to. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: We always respected the fact that the decision at the US election was a matter for the American people. We always said that any Australian Government will work well with whomever the American people choose to be their President. We very much look forward to working closely with the Trump Administration. We have engaged with the Trump transition team. Our Prime Minister has had a very warm, very positive conversation with President-elect Trump. We are very focussed on making sure that our very strong relationship continues to strengthen into the future. We are long standing friends and allies. We have been involved in many global challenges side by side. We very much look forward to working closely and very, very cooperatively with the Trump Administration moving forward. 

PAULA NEWTON: We’ve heard a lot of positive comments from leaders like you around the world. But we are yet to hear anything concrete. What are you dealing with the transition team what are you telling them? Because right now they’re saying, the United States are saying they are only in this trading game for the United States and US interests. So how will things change? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: This is very early days. It is a week since the election. The Trump team is preparing for the transition. President-elect Trump will take office on January 20.There is a bit of work to be done between now and then. That is a matter for them. From our point of view, we will continue to focus on the very positive contribution that the United States has made to this part of the world, to peace, stability and prosperity in this part of the world and the importance of that continued engagement for stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific. These are the sorts of matters that we will continue to talk to the Trump transition team and in the future the Trump Administration about. 

PAULA NEWTON: One of those other matters is a deal that apparently Australia and the United States have, to transfer refugees that are on Pacific Islands right now to the United States. Do you expect that deal to continue through to a Trump Administration?

MATHIAS CORMANN: This is something that has been negotiated with the Obama Administration, which continues to be in office until the transition has been completed. Again, Australia and the United States have got a long history of cooperation on matters of mutual interest. We look forward that these sorts of agreements that have been reached will continue into the future.

PAULA NEWTON: I'll take that as a maybe. Is that okay? It might happen.

MATHIAS CORMANN: We would like to think it is a yes. We are not making any assumptions, but we are certainly working towards ensuring that this agreement will continue in the same way as other agreements in the past have continued across different administrations. 

PAULA NEWTON: Gotcha, fair enough and I appreciate your time today from Melbourne.



Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Perth