Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
DAN MURPHY: In Davos, Australia adding support to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s offensive against anti-globalisation rhetoric. The Finance Minister Mathias Cormann telling CNBC his country is an open and free trading economy.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It was a very good speech. It was very good to hear him talk about the virtues of free markets, trade liberalisation and warning about the risks of protectionism. Australia is an open trading economy. We very well understand that they best way forward for all of us to get ahead, to get the best possible living standards for people in our respective countries is to engage in open and free trade.
JULIA CHATTERLEY: I think the message that has come out of Davos this year is that there is a hope that President Trump won’t be what we have seen from President-elect Trump. That it will be a tamer version that we get. Do you think the Chinese will be patient with him as he goes through that transition?
MATHIAS CORMANN: A strong and successful United States is good for the world, is good for Australia. I am very confident that the Trump Administration will be focused on making America the strongest and the most successful it possibly can be. So from that point of view the Australian Government stands ready to work constructively with the new Trump Administration. I think all of us around the world are looking forward to engaging with the Trump Administration. That is now the United States Government over the next four years. We have to all work very hard to make sure we get the best possible outcomes for the world.
JULIA CHATTERLEY: As you point out your country’s key trade partners, what is the risk and the damage that could be done by a trade war here, whether its rhetoric or whether it is actually a practice?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our focus is on doing business with everyone. We have a strong and long standing friendship and strategic relationship with the United States. The United States is the biggest foreign investor in Australia by far. It is the biggest destination for foreign investment from Australia. But we also clearly have a very strong trade relationship with China. We are keen to have a strong relationship with both the United States and China. I think that that is the best way forward.
JULIA CHATTERLEY: So, the ratings agencies are concerned that your Government’s slim majority is going to be a problem for spending, for the Budget, being disciplined as you need to be. Clearly you’re one of the last few countries that still managed to hold onto its AAA rating. Is that at risk? Are you very focussed on maintaining that rating?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The AAA credit rating is important to us. Ultimately the judgement on whether it continues is a matter for the ratings agencies. We are working very hard to ensure that our Budget is on the strongest possible foundation, has the strongest possible trajectory for the future. We have made significant progress since the last election in July in passing further structural savings and Budget improvement measures. We are conscious that there is more work to do. We believe we are making progress.
DAN MURPHY: Mathias Cormann there.