Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
RICHARD QUEST: To Australia for the point of the view of the Government on TPP. The Finance Minister Mathias Cormann joins me now from Canberra. Minister, thank you very much. Look it must be pretty frustrating. You spend all this time negotiating a treaty, which basically can now never come into force.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, never is a very long time Richard. We do believe, as do eleven countries that have been part of this process, that this is a very good agreement, which will improve business relationships across all of our countries, which will provide great opportunities for exporting business across all of our countries. In the end that is what it is about. We do a lot of business with America. We would love to do more business with America. From an Australian point of view, we buy much more than we sell. The Asia Pacific is the part of the world where most of the global growth will be generated in years and decades to come, so ultimately the US will want to be a part of that action.
RICHARD QUEST: Right, but if Donald Trump, well he is going to withdraw from the TPP, it is a fair question Minister, what happens to TPP now, in your view?
MATHIAS CORMANN: TPP parties have two years to complete the ratification process. Certainly, from an Australian point of view, we look forward to engaging with the Trump administration on how we can best boost trade across this part of the world. Australia is pursuing other opportunities. We are pursuing other bilateral as well as other multilateral opportunities. We are leading the push for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership involving sixteen countries in this part of the world, all of the ASEAN countries, China, India, Korea, Japan as well as Australia and New Zealand. We are looking at other opportunities as well. But the Trans Pacific Partnership is a very important agreement. It is a very beneficial agreement, we believe, for America and for all of the countries that are part of the agreement. We look forward to continuing to engage in that conversation with the new US administration.
RICHARD QUEST: You seem to be suggesting, you think there may still be life in a reformed TPP under a Trump administration. Is it a case of TPP or the Chinese equivalent, the RCEP?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Two points there. Firstly, we are convinced that America under the Trump administration would want to sell as many of their products and services into key markets around the world as possible. TPP provides a very important platform to help achieve that. In relation to potential new members of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, we have always said that we welcome new members. Ultimately that will be a decision for all Trans Pacific Partnership parties. They would have to agree. Any new applicant would have to meet the very high standards in the agreement. China certainly hasn’t expressed any real interest to date. However, China, Indonesia and other countries in this part of the world could be potential future partners. The important point is that the more barriers we remove, the less red tape there is, the more capacity there is for exporting businesses in America and in Australia to sell our products and services into this part of the world, which will continue to grow strongly, the better for all of us.
RICHARD QUEST: Okay, now Donald Trump did say yesterday and you would have read his words very carefully, he said he looked forward to bilateral trade agreements, which he said would be good for America. Is the era of the giant multilateral, Doha round, TPP, the big regional deal, is it over and is the future now for you sir, whether it be with Britain on Brexit, or the US on a trade deal bilateral instead?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is certainly true that multilateral agreements are much more difficult to achieve. This process shows that. Australia certainly has continued to pursue a very ambitious bilateral free trade agenda. Over the last two or three years we have signed very good bilateral agreements with China, Japan, South Korea. We are currently exploring deals with India and Indonesia and the European Union. We will continue to do that. We have already got a very good free trade agreement with the United States. That does not mean that we should give up on achieving integration of markets on a multilateral level where that makes sense, recognising that in the end, for trade deals to be sustainable, they have to be win-win. People in all of the participating countries have to recognise that there are benefits for them and for their economies.
RICHARD QUEST: So finally and briefly sir, are you prepared to re-open TPP? Renegotiate, re-open, whatever phrase, let’s not hang ourselves on the words. Are you prepared to re-look at TPP if that is what the administration in Washington wants to do?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are currently exploring all options. We are certainly very keen to engage with the Trump administration to ensure that we get the best possible trade agreement that can facilitate trade and investment flows in this part of the world.
RICHARD QUEST: Minister, wonderful to have you from Canberra. Thank you sir for joining us at the beginning of your day and at the end of the New York day.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.
RICHARD QUEST: Thank you sir.