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Transcript of doorstop interview with Japanese journalists: Australian Embassy, Tokyo:7 June 2010: [FTA negotiations].



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Doorstop interview with Japanese journalists, Australian Embassy, Tokyo

Transcript, E&OE

7 June 2010

Journalist: What do you think about the new government? Minister Naoshima may stay in his position I

think. What do you think about the relationship with the new government and your government, and

especially about FTA negotiations?

Minister: We congratulate Prime Minister Kan on his election and we welcome the opportunity to work with

him and his new cabinet, his new government.

We have appreciated working with the government over the past eight months because it is a reform-minded government, it is committed strongly to greater integration in the region, and to concluding a Free

Trade Agreement with Australia. I had many discussions with Minister Naoshima and it would be a great

opportunity were he to continue in that position — I hope your advice is right, but I cannot comment one

way or the other — I hope that he continues in his position, as I do Minister Okada. Both of those ministers

jointly chaired a very successful meeting in Sapporo just this last two days, which I attended.

In my discussions with Minister Okada, he was very keen to impress the reform credentials of Prime

Minister Kan, and his commitment to wanting to conclude an FTA. I was very pleased to hear this because

I had the opportunity to meet Mr Kan before he was elected to government some two and a half years ago

when I visited here, soon after our government was elected. I met him in January 2008 and he told me then

that were the DPJ to be elected, they were committed to concluding an FTA. This was important because

we were seeking bipartisan support for the conclusion of that EPA (that we call FTA). So we are delighted

to hear the commitment of the government, we want to work with it, and we look forward to the

opportunities going forward.

Journalist: I followed, and am following, these negotiations since the days of the Mr Howard government

and nothing has progressed on the agriculture issue. Is there any possibility to conclude this negotiation

without putting agriculture aside? Always you say that it has to be a comprehensive agreement. So you do

think that there is substantial progress on agriculture?

Minister: The difficulties in agriculture still remain but I believe they can be addressed. I believe that we

can address the sensitivities. But rather than focus on just the difficulties, we have really got to talk about

the opportunities. That was the purpose of my address in there today and what I continue to keep making

the point about. It may well be that resolution of agriculture is not on the horizon yet. But what firmly is on

the horizon is the huge opportunity and potential for strengthened economic engagement — not just

between our countries but working together in third markets.

We need a modern framework that reflects the fact that trade is not just about goods these days; it is also

about services and investment, and the opportunities in the third markets. That is what we have to keep

focussing on because that is the broader message to the Japanese public and to the Australian public. If

we simply concentrate on one sector where there are defensive interests, we will never make any progress.

But by broadening the agenda to demonstrate the overall benefits and opportunities through

complementarities, through win-win outcomes, that is where I believe we can bring the Free Trade

Agreement home.

Journalist: What I understand is that without thinking about agriculture, there is substantial progress on

negotiations. But our journalists always focus on the difficulties so we always say that there are difficulties

on agriculture.

Minister: We want you to focus on the opportunities as well.

Journalist: Yes. But is it possible to say that there is substantial progress on the negotiations in other

areas than agriculture like investment or procurement or something?

Minister: Progress has been made, but I think the important underpinner is the political will. And if the

political will exists, which understands the opportunities but has to balance the sensitivities, that’s the task

we have set ourselves, and that is what we are progressing with.

Journalist: And do you think we have the political will in Japan?

Minister: Absolutely.

Journalist: I would like to address this question to you as a cabinet minister of the Australian Government,

although this is outside your portfolio. Australia has filed a complaint to the International Court of Justice on

whaling. Isn’t that a gamble for Australia because if the Japanese position is recognised on whaling by the

court, then it means that the position that is being pursued by Australia will not be accepted in the world. I

want to ask your opinion about this. Also, Southern Bluefin Tuna is being exported from Australia. Don’t

you think that bringing the whaling issue into the International Court of Justice might exert a negative

impact on your exports of tuna to Japan?

Minister: On the first point, we have sought to get a negotiated outcome in relation to whaling. But what

was on the table was not satisfactory from the point of view of where we saw the negotiations headed. We

took a long time to try and get a negotiated outcome. We did not believe, as a Cabinet, that that was likely

to succeed in terms of the elimination of the scientific whaling. So in accordance with a commitment we had

taken before the last election, we said that we would take it to the court. Now, of course, we would still

prefer a negotiated outcome, but that depends on how the negotiations proceed. But we have determined

that because negotiations weren’t proceeding, we needed to take that action.

On the question as to whether this will have an impact on the broader economic relationship, the short

answer is no. Minister Okada and I discussed this as recently as yesterday. I made the point that as much

as the issue of whaling is an important issue in both countries, we need to realise that we have got

completely different views — very strongly different views — on the outcome. We need to recognise that,

but that it should not be allowed to interfere with any other aspect of our relationship. Minister Okada’s

response to me was he could not agree more.

Journalist: I think the Japanese financial institutions, as is the case with Australian financial institutions,

are relatively sound in terms of their conditions. But what are you seeking in terms of cooperation with

Japanese financial institutions, or what else are you seeking on a stand-alone basis from Japanese

financial institutions?

Minister: We are looking at strengthening the complementarities of both of our financial services sectors.

Both have come through the global financial crisis very strongly and we need to understand that therefore

we have got the fundamentals in place for really building a cooperative basis going forward. Growth in

financial services, like all services, is a measure of the level of economic development of a country. As the

wealth grows in the region (and this is the fastest growing region in the world), and both countries are

actively engaged, not just trading with each other but in other markets, the ability to meet the growing

demand and diversification for financial services exists not just within our respective economies, but as

platforms for accessing and servicing other economies. Australia’s strength, in so much of the diversity of

what is the financial services sector today, demonstrates that we have got the ability through getting the

balance right between openness, creativity in terms of financial products, return on those financial products

and regulatory security. That is the balance that everyone is looking for, and Australia can add significantly

its expertise with like-minded partners. It’s that partnership with Japan that we are seeking to strengthen.

ENDS

Media inquiries

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