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Doorstop in Lima, Peru

21st November 2016  |  Comments  |  Transcripts

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Twenty One economies, 60 per cent of the world’s GDP and our major trading partners. The APEC meeting here in Lima has resolved to continue our commitment to free trade and economic liberalisation. Recognising that increases the opportunities for more jobs and more growth right across the region, just as it has done in years passed.

We’ve committed to continue to work towards a larger Asia-Pacific free trade agreement, the free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, the FTAAP. And also working towards removing a lot of those regulatory barriers to services and competition in services across borders.

As Christine Lagarde was saying earlier in the day, so much of the barriers that stand in the way of goods trade – tariff barriers and so forth, have been brought down but there still remains a lot of barriers to services. Of course we addressed this in our bilateral agreements – you will have noticed the way in which we’ve increased our access to the Singapore market for services, very substantially in the Singapore deal. And of course that access is also reflected in the free trade agreements we’ve done bilaterally with China, Korea and Japan.

A lot of discussion about the American election, as you’d imagine and the implications for free trade there. President Obama has been encouraging everybody to wait and see and we will all continue to make the case in our own national interest. I’m here representing Australia’s interest and the other leaders are representing the interest of their nations and we’ll continue to do that and we’ll see what the new administration brings.

JOURNALIST:  

Prime Minister you said it was a sad moment to Barack Obama to have your last face-to-face with him. It went for a long time, can you give us a sense of what the atmosphere was like between you two and how the conversation went?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’ve always got on very well at a personal level and I guess you probably worked that out. It is momentous occasion, when one President hands over to another it’s a point in history isn’t it. And President Obama has been a remarkable leader of the United States and indeed a leader of the world for eight years. There is an element of sadness but a great sense of achievement too. He has been a great leader and our Alliance has only grown stronger under his leadership so we thanked him for that.

JOURNALIST:

What if anything did President Obama ask you to do in transitioning to the Trump Administration? And looking after Australia’s part of the Asia-Pacific?

PRIME MINISTER:

President Obama wants President Trump to do well. He wants America to do well, America to succeed and that's why he's reached out to the President-elect to offer his support and he's encouraged all of us, he's encouraged me and other leaders to do exactly the same. We all want the best for our great friend, the United States, and we want the best for its President, so we'll do everything we can to support President Trump just as Barack Obama will.

He is obviously disappointed his party's candidate didn't win in the election but the election is over. Now we all want to get behind President Trump and do everything we can to ensure that he is successful. We of course will always, as we do that, be defending Australia's interest. We don't compromise our national interest. I'm here to represent Australia, Australian jobs and the economic growth that we seek to deliver to ensure the future for our Australian children and grandchildren as part of this very dynamic Asia-Pacific region.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, was the President able to say anything to you that would give you confidence that President Trump will be more moderate than his language suggested during the campaign? Was President Obama able to reassure you or not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well a lot of us are quoting or referring to that great observation of Mario Cuomo that: “We campaign in poetry and we govern in prose”. President Obama's reflected in terms of trade, on the way in which, when he was candidate Obama, he was very critical of free trade agreements. As President Obama, he has been a great advocate for them. The reality is that governments of whatever political complexion will generally act in the national interest. America's national interest is enduring and its interest in being a participant, an active, engaged participant in global trade is very plain.

JOURNALIST:

Did the President give you any sense of progress being made in the Middle East in relation to ISIS and where he thought that is going?

PRIME MINISTER:

President Obama is satisfied that the progress towards eliminating Daesh from Mosul and then, after Mosul, Raqqa is going well. He deeply appreciates, as he said at the end of the meeting, the contribution, the commitment of the Australian servicemen and women that are there fighting alongside or supporting the work of the Iraqi security forces and working, of course, so closely with our American and other coalition partners.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you now head back to Australia, a long flight back. How confident are you when you do return that the two, the Registered Organisations Bill and the ABCC legislation can pass in the next seven sitting days?

PRIME MINISTER:

I would say I'm quietly confident it will pass but we respect every Senator there. We respect their right - they'll consider the legislation on its merits and we’ll make the case for it. Even if you look in the news today, if you look at $100 billion worth of projects that has been disrupted, held back, interfered with if you like, by industrial disruption that need not happen if the rule of law prevailed in the construction sector. Of course, you've seen the recent arrests underlining again the importance of the rule of law prevailing in the industrial sector. The Registered Organisations Bill seeks to do no more than require that union officials and those of employer organisations are as accountable to their members as company directors are to their shareholders. The ABCC Bill seeks to do no more than ensure that the rule of law applies to the building and construction sector. These are good reforms, vital economic reforms, and we will be encouraging the Senators to support them.

JOURNALIST:

The latest polling suggests Marine Le Pen is an increasing chance of getting the French presidency – what would that victory do to world trade and European society?

PRIME MINISTER:

Having managed to stay out of commentating on the American election, not even your charm will draw me into commenting on the French one.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, did the US President provide any reassurance that the US refugee resettlement deal will continue under President Trump? And you also spoke about migration issues with the Canadian Prime Minister. Were you seeking a refugee deal with Canada?

PRIME MINISTER:

Dealing with the second part of the question first, we have discussions about resettlement and migration issues of that kind with many countries, certainly all of the countries in the Bali process and beyond but as you know we don't comment on discussions with individual countries. If and when we reach an agreement, we make an announcement.

As far as President Obama is concerned, we both recognise that our countries have a long and continuous history of cooperation on matters of this kind, where we pursue our mutual and respective objectives and that cooperation has continued across governments of different complexions, different Prime Ministers, different Presidents over many decades.

JOURNALIST:

Is the Australian Government considering taking more Syrian refugees and did you seek any assistance or expertise from the Canadian Prime Minister given they have resettled 34,000 Syrians in the time Australia’s resettled 6,000?

PRIME MINISTER:

We're taking, in addition to our annual humanitarian program, which as you know is another 13,750 going up to 18,750 over the next few years. In addition to that we have 12,000 person intake from the Syrian conflict zone which is in the process of being handled. We have now, I think, a bit over half of those in the cohort have either come to Australia or been approved to come to Australia. We don't have any plans to increase that 12,000 number, no. But the general humanitarian program is increasing in accordance with previous policy.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, might you expect under the new President that it will become, if anything, tougher to manage the fact that our major security alliance is with Washington and our major trade alliance is with Beijing and that will become more [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm confident that as we have done for many years we'll maintain a very strong and trusted ally in Washington and a very good friend in Beijing. When you look around the table there at APEC, just as you do at the G20, you realise that all of these nations, big and small, need each other. We all need each other to work together. We have only got one planet. We've only got one Asia-Pacific. We have to work together to deliver the harmony and the economic growth and the opportunities that our children and grandchildren are entitled to expect that we, as their leaders, deliver. Thank you all very much. I hope you all have a very good and safe flight home. Thank you.

[ENDS]

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