WEDNESDAY, 24 JANUARY 2018
SUBJECTS: The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
LAURA JAYES: Shadow Trade and Investment Minister Jason Clare joins me live from his electorate this afternoon. Mr Clare thank you for your time. Do you now concede that those words uttered from Bill Shorten are a bit premature?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT: Laura we said that the TPP that was signed in New Zealand two years ago, that involved the United States, was dead and we were right. Donald Trump as soon as he became President of the United States pulled out of it. We also said that if a different agreement can be struck without the United States then we were ready to look at it and judge it on its merits.
Bill Shorten said that, I said that, a number of times. The Government has now signed Australia up, or they will sign Australia up to an agreement that involves the other countries, not the United States, and we will look at it on its merits when it comes before us.
JAYES: But that’s exactly what has happened here. Bill Shorten said that there’s no point in performing CPR on this trade deal, it was just a vanity project of Malcolm Turnbull. Well the Government today has said that it was an example of Labor getting it wrong on the economy. What do you say to that?
CLARE: Malcolm Turnbull was trying to convince people that he could change Donald Trump’s mind. That he could somehow force Donald Trump to sign up to the TPP. He was proved wrong on that. We said from the get-go. Donald Trump has been very clear about this. He doesn’t support it and we’ve been proved right. The chances of Donald Trump signing up to this I think are zero but we’ve said if you can sign Australia up to another agreement without America then we’ll look at it.
This is a very different agreement because America’s not in it. The original agreement involving the United States involved around 40 per cent of the global economy. Without the US it’s about 13 per cent. So it’s a different agreement. The original agreement had modest economic benefits for Australia and certainly strategic benefits. I’ve always said this is an agreement that had merit because what it did was create rules of the road for the region. A trade agreement for the Asia Pacific. Without America that means that its economic impact might be less.
I would like to see a trade agreement, ultimately where we have got America, where we’ve got China, where we’ve got India, all the countries of the Asia Pacific together. It will help create peace and stability and economic growth in our region. Now that this has been finalised the next step is for us to see the details. I have written to Minister Ciobo today asking for a briefing.
I would urge Malcolm Turnbull to do this - get some independent economic modelling done of this. He said it will create jobs, we know that trade creates jobs, but how many? We’ve said that if Labor is elected before we sign a trade deal we will get independent economic modelling done by the Productivity Commission. I see James Pearson the Head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce today on Sky said that we should do that. I think that is a good idea, because for those nay-sayers out there who don’t think trade is a good idea having an independent piece of advice that says that these are the jobs that it will create, these are the industries that will benefit, I think will only help the Prime Minister and help the Government. Don’t rely upon what the Government says, we need independent advice here that shows us what the benefits are.
JAYES: Ok that’s something that you’ve committed to if Labor does win government, but this TPP has been signed under this, the Turnbull Government. You say you’ll look at it on its merits so what are you asking for? You’ve asked for a briefing from Minister Ciobo. What is your check list? Do you want more exact details on how many jobs will be created? Do you want the benefits outlined clearly in black and white? Do you want honesty about some of the quid pro quos and the down side of this deal?
CLARE: We want to know that it is good for Australia. We want to know that it is good for Australian jobs. Just by way of background Laura, these trade negotiations are all done in secret. It’s another thing that I think should change. We only know what Australia has signed up for after we have signed it. I think that a better way to go about this, which other countries like the United States and countries in Europe do is that they will table a document in Parliament at the start to say that these are our objectives. After each trade round they will tell people what’s in it.
JAYES: Sure but you signed the Free Trade Agreement with Chile, this is just how these deals are done. Saying that it’s in secret probably paints this picture of it being a cloak and daggers type of agreement. But there are commercial-in confidence issues there, aren’t’ there?
CLARE: It’s the way Australia does it. Other countries do it differently. In America for example, after each round of negotiations unions, industry and Members of Congress get an update on where the negotitations are up to. For example I think as the Shadow Minister for Trade I should be able to be briefed after each round so we know what’s in the deal and where it’s up to. At the moment I have no information on what has been agreed to in Japan overnight. That’s why I have asked the Minister for a briefing.
We can be more transparent, we can provide more information to the Parliament, more information to industry. James Pearson the head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce also said on Sky this morning that we should get business more involved in the negotiations to make sure that what we sign up to is what business needs. Other countries do that.
JAYES: Business would love that. But also – look I take your point that the Productivity Commission has some concerns about free trade agreements in principle. When it comes down to it Labor finally did agree to ratify the China Free Trade Agreement. There were extra provisions in there that you were able to secure. What happens with this TPP-11? I know you’re asking for a briefing here but are you really going to scuttle this when it comes to ratifying – when legislation comes to the Parliament?
CLARE: Another important point Laura is that a deal like this is ratified by the Government. It’s not ratified by the Parliament. Cabinet makes a decision on whether or not to ratify a trade agreement.
JAYES: Hang on. That’s different to what happened with the China FTA. So are you saying that Labor will not have to vote on this in Parliament? How does it work? So Labor has no say on it?
CLARE: Let me clarify. The trade deals are ratified by government. They’re ratified by Cabinet. Certain aspects of the trade deal might require legislation. So for example with the China Free Trade Agreement there were some changes that were needed to customs and tariffs.
JAYES: And they do more often than not.
CLARE: Yes. There will be independent or certain parts of the deal that might need to go before Parliament. That’s something that the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will have a look at when it examines this agreement over the course of the next few months. The bottom line is if it’s good for Australia and it’s good for Australian jobs of course we’ll back it. But we’ve got to go through the detail. We haven’t seen the detail yet. I’ve asked the Minister for a briefing on that. And I’ve suggested to the Prime Minister that it’s in the Government’s interest – I think it’s in Australia’s interest – that we get this independent economic modelling done, not just for this, but for all trade agreements.
JAYES: But that’s too late for this TPP-11.
CLARE: It’s just been finalised. It hasn’t even been signed.
JAYES: I’m told quite firmly, my phone is lighting up Jason Clare, saying this will require legislation. So you’re going to have to say whether you support this or not on the floor of the House of Parliament. Are you really saying that Labor might scuttle this deal?
CLARE: You’re saying that, I’m not saying that. I’m saying I’ll support good high quality trade deals that are going to be good for Australia, that are going to create Aussie jobs. We’ve just got a process that we have got to go though. The legislation that will go before Parliament won’t be the whole trade agreement. It’ll be bits and pieces of it, probably to do with tariffs and customs duties.
JAYES: Okay, so it might be a similar thing to what happened with the China FTA where there was provisions in there for the Labor force – along the lines?
CLARE: In that case the Bill again dealt with tariffs. But what we said was there needed to be some changes to another piece of legislation to make sure that workers who come from China to work in Australia are paid the same as Australian workers and get the same training as Australian workers. After a bit of argy bargy the Government finally agreed. We got a better agreement. We got a better deal. I don’t think anybody watching this would think that workers coming from another country shouldn’t be paid the same as Aussies, or have the same training skills.
Once again with this trade agreement and a lot of others the Government trades away labour market testing. Normally what happens is before someone comes and works in Australia from overseas the employer in Australia has to check if there’s an Aussie that can do the job. If it’s an electrician, or a plumber, or a carpenter you’d think that - check first if there’s an Aussie that can do it before they’d bring someone in from overseas. What the Government is doing in a lot of trade agreements is waiving that. This makes Aussies bloody angry. There’s nothing that makes people angrier than the idea that you shouldn’t first check if there’s an Australian who can do the job before you bring someone in from overseas. Malcolm Turnbull last year promised that he wouldn’t keep doing this, but he is.
JAYES: Okay Jason Clare we’re going to have to leave it there, thanks so much for your time today.
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