Doorstop Interview in Camperdown
Topics: Australia’s export growth; Australia-EU trade agreement; Australia-China relationship
Simon Birmingham: Well it’s wonderful to be here in Camperdown in southwest Victoria; one of the agricultural powerhouse regions of Australia. And today, to be here with my good mate Dan Tehan who’s brought together representatives of dairy, of meat, of aquaculture, of poultry, a range of different agricultural industries that are so crucial to this region but to Australia’s export posture and industry out to the world. And Australia’s export performance has been going gangbusters with record levels of exports in recent years.
What we want to do is continue to ensure strong growth of exports into the future. That’s why we’re not taking for granted the trade agreements that we have with markets like China, Japan, Korea or Indonesia. We’re looking to new markets such as the European Union, already our third largest export market, but with significant restraints, particularly on our farmers and their ability to send produce to the EU.
So today, we’re engaging in consultations about what we need to negotiate for in relation to the EU agreement and what we need to be mindful of in terms of the EU demands so that in the end, we can get the best possible deal for Australian farmers and businesses to grow in the future.
Journalist: What are some of the primary concerns that these farmers came to you with? Was it things like naming rights, which we’ve seen in the media a fair bit lately?
Simon Birmingham: Certainly, there are concerns from the dairy sector about the potential impact of the EU’s requests geographical indications. Now, we’ve made no promises and no commitments to the EU to protect any terms at all; we’re simply consulting around their requests. Of course, these are trade negotiations. We have expectations that our farmers and businesses should be able to sell more to the EU in the future with lower tariffs and the elimination of quotas where possible, but they have their expectations as well. So it’s a true negotiation.
What I’ve committed to the local industry here is that we will go into bat for them and we will extract the best possible deal in Australia’s overall interest, and to make sure that our farmers and our businesses can sell more in the future.
Journalist: Is there a bit of robbing Peter to pay Paul here? If we open up more trade with the EU, are we going to be taking away from some of our other partners?
Simon Birmingham: Australia has demonstrated, as we’ve opened up progressively trade agreements with country after country in recent years, that we can continue to grow our exports. And that’s what’s given us a record trade surplus; a situation where our exports have kept growing month after month. Pleasingly, it’s not just in areas such as mining resources that we’ve seen export growth in Australia. And we’ve seen thousands of small and medium sized businesses, some of them farm businesses, grow into export businesses over recent years, and those businesses are delivering real results in terms of record export levels, and that means more jobs for Australians.
Journalist: I’ve got a couple of other questions on other things, but if you guys have anything on this you want to throw in? Well China obviously. The comments that the Prime Minister made, did you reach out to your counterpart to advise him that they were coming?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I think the comments the Prime Minister made are consistent with comments that we have made for some time, and indeed, remarks that I’ve made previously about the fact that as countries in our region and countries across the world have grown and enjoyed economic success in recent years it is entirely expectable and predictable for those countries ought to and take on responsibilities commensurate with their economic status and standing.
Journalist: With China being recognised as being newly developed, I guess, how does that help Australia’s trade relationship with China?
Simon Birmingham: Well Australia enjoys a comprehensive and strategic relationship with China across a range of levels. Our relationship is much deeper than purely a trading relationship and we welcome the fact that China has been and is an economic powerhouse in our region. We want to see continued growth with China in the future; we want to see China and all other nations play a role as responsible global citizens commensurate with their standing in the global community.
Journalist: When are you next heading to China, and how do you think those remarks will be received when you’re over there?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the remarks are nothing new in terms of the position that Australia has made public for some period of time. We want to see countries, whether it’s China or others, play a role commensurate with their economic strength and capabilities through all global fora. That’s nothing unreasonable. I expect and hope to be back in China in coming months, just as I’ve been a frequent visitor in my 12-months as Trade Minister today.
Journalist: Thank you very much. Cheers.