Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Thursday, 19 January 2017
ED CONWAY: Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance of Australia, thank you so much for talking to us.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.
ED CONWAY: We just heard Teresa May giving her speech about Brexit and about the UK and its future, for a Davos audience. How did it go down for you?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Her message is very clear. I think that it is very important for the world to understand what Britain’s intentions are moving forward. From an Australian point of view we very much look forward to working with Britain to do more business together in the years ahead. We have a very good, a very special relationship, steeped in common history. We look forward to entering into a trade deal with the United Kingdom very soon.
ED CONWAY: There is some concern here in the UK and I guess in Europe as well, if the UK is going to leave the single market, this is a harder tougher Brexit than some people had expected and bad for the economy. As an observer is that something that concerns you or do you see that as an opportunity?
MATHIAS CORMANN: From our point of view, we are not commentators. These are matters for Britain and the European Union to work out. From an Australian point of view, we want to do as much business as possible with the United Kingdom, we want to do as much business as possible with the European Union. Given the decisions that have been made, given what lies ahead, we will set out to ensure that we are in the best possible position to work as well as possible with both sides of the equation.
ED CONWAY: And let’s talk about that. How quickly could a trade deal between Australia and Britain be forged?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We believe and our Prime Minister has said publicly that this can be done very quickly. Right now though, the first step is that Britain needs to go through this process of exiting the European Union. There has to be this step to a position where Britain is in a formal capacity to actually negotiate a trade agreement. Once that happens we are very confident that this can be done very quickly. There have been some preliminary conversations already between Prime Minister May and Prime Minister Turnbull.
ED CONWAY: So quickly, can you put any kind of timescale on what quickly actually means, after 2019 when we are actually able to negotiate. Is that a few months, is that a few years?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It will be done as quickly as possible, but it will take as much time as necessary. It will be done as quickly as possible. There is still a lot that we don’t know. We don’t know precisely yet what is going to be involved in the process in terms of Britain exiting the European Union. What I would say is that there is lots of goodwill, lots of very strong goodwill on both sides of the equation. Britain we understand are very keen to do a deal with us. We are very keen to do a deal with Britain. We believe between countries of goodwill there is lots of opportunity.
ED CONWAY: Okay, there is a going to be a new President in the White House as of tomorrow. He has been quite vocal in his lack of support, his concern about TPP, obviously Australia part of that trade agreement. Are you concerned about, a lot of negotiation has been done, has it all been wasted?
MATHIAS CORMANN: A lot of work has been done. We believe that the Trans Pacific Partnership is a good agreement. We believe it is a win win all around. Twelve countries involved in it, the United States being the biggest country out of those twelve countries representing about forty per cent of the world economy. We note what President-elect Trump has said. From an Australian point of view we are committed to proceed. We will proceed with ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. We are talking to all of the other countries other than the US, to encourage them to do the same. Over time, who knows, the view in the United States may change. We do note that quite a few of the senior Republicans are actually quite supportive of the TPP. We are hopeful over time there might be some developments there.
ED CONWAY: You are not worried about this rise, this surge in protectionism that a lot of people here in Davos are concerned about.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have to be very conscious that when you have lower global growth, when you have technological disruption, when you have people in sectors of the economy that are being hit by the transformation in the economy that there is a lot of anxiety out there, that we have to ensure that we support people that are faced with some of these difficult transitions through those transitions. There is certainly a lot of work to be done both by political leaders and business leaders to ensure that happens. But fundamentally, free trade, open trade, globalisation has been absolutely good for the world. It has been incredibly powerful in terms of lifting living standards. It is not the right way for us to go into a protectionist approach.
ED CONWAY: And that was part of the message, wasn’t it, from Teresa May in the early part of her speech today as well.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Very much so. She is right.
ED CONWAY: Minister, thank you very much for talking with us.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.