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Transcript of doorstop Interview: Residence of the Australian Ambassador, Washington: 1 April 2008: Washington meetings; meetings with Presidential candidates; Japan.



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Prime Minister of Australia

Interview

Doorstop Interview, Residence of the Australian Ambassador, Washington

01 April 2008

Subject(s): Washington meetings, meetings with Presidential Candidates, Japan

E&OE

PM: Good morning. You’re all looking chipper. Today in Washington we have another full set of appointments. I am looking forward to catching up with the Republican nominee for the Presidential election, Senator John McCain.

I have met Senator McCain once before, I am looking forward to renewing that relationship. I have said during the course of this visit that this relationship, this alliance with the United States has been supported by 12 U.S Presidents, Republican and Democrat and 13 Australian Prime Ministers, Labor and Liberal, and I am the 14th.

Whoever becomes the 13th President of the United States, since we began our alliance, what we know is that this alliance will have support whether it is from the Republican side or the Democratic side.

Our alliance with the United States should be and should always remain above party politics. Part of my purpose here in Washington is to make sure that I have made contact with the Democratic party side. And as you know I spoke to both their remaining candidates yesterday. On the Republican side I am speaking to Senator John McCain today.

I am certainly of the view that it is irresponsible for any Australian Government ever to be in the business of taking sides in U.S domestic politics on the outcomes of Presidential elections. That’s not the right way to conduct such an important strategic and economic relationship for Australia.

My view is whoever wins this next Presidential election, Republican or Democrat, they will know that in Australia they have a good and reliable friend. And I am certainly not in the business of picking sides.

Also today I am looking forward to catching up with the US Senior Trade Representative Susan Schwab. I am also catching up with the US Energy Secretary. I am about to have breakfast also with the Deputy Secretary of Treasury and the Deputy Secretary of State. And also today with the head of the World Bank, Bob Zoellick. And the Republican House leadership at the Congress.

Putting these various meetings together, whether it is with the members of the Cabinet, that I saw last Friday, the Senate leadership who I saw yesterday, the House leadership who I see today, on top of the candidates both Republican and Democrat, I am very pleased to have been able to establish good working relationships with those currently running the administration here in Washington. And those, depending on the outcome of the Presidentials at the end of this year, who will run this Administration into the future.

The key thrust of my engagements with the representatives of the Administration and others today, again goes back to the economy. The absolute importance of ensuring that the global economy gets a shot of confidence in the arm through getting a decent outcome in the unresolved Doha Round.

The challenges and stresses currently being faced by the global economy as a result of the global financial crisis requires that world leaders combine together to ensure that confidence is enhanced by a good outcome on world trade. There could be no better injection of confidence than get that outcome on world trade.

And that will certainly be the thrust of my meetings today, in particular with the US Senior Trade Representative. I spent some time discussing this also last night at the dinner hosted by, very kindly, by the United States Chamber of Commerce.

I sat at dinner with the US Senior Trade Representative and with the US Agriculture Secretary, both of them are critical for the posture the United States takes in the remaining WTO negotiations.

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The international community needs to get serious about an outcome on trade, and we need to make sure that that outcome on trade supports what is at present, some flagging confidence around the global economy because of the rolling crisis in financial markets.

I can take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister can you confirm that you are going to Japan on June 20?

PM: Well we have been planning on going to Japan as I said on two occasions this year. As I understand it we have confirmed dates in June. Precisely when I am not sure.

JOURNALIST: Is that earlier than you were originally anticipating for a bilateral visit?

PM: No, we have been talking for quite some time with the Japanese about, as I said a visit surrounding the G8 and that has in fact been under discussion since January this year and a separate visit as well. In June I think is where it’s now about to -

JOURNALIST: So have you spoken to the Japanese Prime Minister in the last couple of days?

PM: These things are always normally transacted, can I say, in multiple iterations, with multiple officials, as everyone gets basically a Rubix cube together to work out who is where, when.

JOURNALIST: So it has got nothing to do with the criticism that Japan was left off this particular trip?

PM: I think we have been talking to our friends in Tokyo about visits there since January of this year. As we have been talking to various other governments around the world as well. The calibration of these things is always a complex matter.

JOURNALIST: Can we fast forward to Brussels, what do you hope to achieve there and what is your program?

PM: The core thing here in the United States has all been about, what do we do as a global economic community to provide a global response to this global crisis in financial markets. There were important outcomes yesterday in terms of the initial statement by the Financial Stability Forum and also there was an important statement yesterday by the US Treasury Secretary on responses to the crisis in global markets.

This is not just some minor marginal thing. What’s happening in the global economy and through global financial markets is actually a core concern to decision makers around the world. So whether I am Brussels or whether I am in London, the economy, and the state of the economy and what to do about boosting confidence in the global economy is number one concern.

Therefore in Brussels as in here in Washington, the core message I will be taking is, what do we do in terms of the remaining things to be done in the Doha Round to ensure that that comes to a successful conclusion.

We need American leadership, we need leadership from the European Union, we need leadership also from other key negotiating groups including the Cairns Group which Australia heads, going into the final weeks and months of the Doha round negotiations.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) in Washington, you have seen a lot of people. How much difference do you think it has made meeting these people face to face and what do you think you have achieved in the last few days?

PM: Well I have had three objectives. The first objective has been to engage the US leadership on the state of the global economy and how to respond to the current global financial crisis. As I said this is serious business. And we are working with our friends the United States on the best responses through various forums.

Second, to reaffirm the central importance of our alliance with the United States.

And third, across all of those key deeds of Australia into the future, on the economy and on the alliance, we have established a wide ranging set of working relationships.

I think if you put it together, the Vice President, the President, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defence, the National Security Adviser. And then on the economy, the Security of the Treasury, the Chairman of the Fed, the Chairman of the SEC and today, if you row through the other agencies, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Energy and also the US Trade Representative.

Then on top of that we have had the House Leadership and the Senate Leadership, and the “new leadership”, whoever

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wins the next election, we have been pretty busy.

But you know something, if you are going to be in DC, it is very important to make sure that the fabric of those personal working relationships is in good order and I believe we have done that.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) access to American markets for Australian sugar?

PM: We have a meeting today with the USTR and we will be covering not just the Doha Round but our bilateral access as well, under the existing FTA. Of course that will go to the question of Australia’s, Queensland’s critical sugar industry.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd if you are not in the business of picking sides in the Presidential race, do you now regret nominating a preference for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama during last year’s election campaign.

PM: When you are doing a, I think it was a John (sic) Denton interview, what was it?

JOURNALIST: Rove.

PM: Rove, Rove. It was all a blur.

JOURNALIST: But you did nominate Clinton.

PM: Yeah, but as I recall, that was all a bit of fun but all about who was, in my view, likely to win at that stage. You don’t punt. As I recall it the question was, was it Hillary or Obama? On a quick off the head response at that stage, I thought the question was about who you thought was going to win.

JOURNALIST: So Hillary or Obama?

PM: I think even when you are doing Rove, you don’t even attempt to predict. And I am certainly not in the business of doing that now.

Critically, Democrat or Republican, you know this alliance is going to be in good hands here in the United States. It is very important that we don’t get in the business of picking one political party over another. As it seemed to be that my predecessor may have done at a certain time. Ok, thanks.

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