PACER Plus included in Australia’s new economic diplomacy policy

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Australia’s Trade Minister Andrew Robb says that with Fiji back in the fold, he is now in a postion to put a proposal to cabinet on a Pacific trade deal and hopes it can be concluded next year.

Mr Rob was speaking at the launch of Australia’s new economic diplomacy policy – the Abbott government’s push to re-orient its diplomatic efforts around economic prosperity for Australia and the region.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker: Julie Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Minister; Andrew Robb, Trade Minister

GARRETT: The Abbott government has its eyes firmly fixed on boosting Australia’s international competitiveness.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joined Trade Minister Andrew Robb at the Lowy Institute for the launch of the government’s new economic diplomacy policy.

BISHOP: If the goal of traditional diplomacy is peace, then the goal of economic diplomacy is peace and prosperity.

GARRETT: Trade Minister Robb said the new economic diplomacy policy will galvanise all Australia’s diplomatic resources; its 95 offices, the marketing and research grunt of bodies such as Austrade, Tourism Australia and the Australian Centre for international Acricultural Reserch as well as state and federal agencies.

The push, Mr Robb said, is for a more vibrant and self-reliant private sector driving increased economic growth.

ROBB: In many countries I have visited there is a clear disillusionment with the interventionist policies and approaches that characterise so much of public policy and has done since the global financial crisis. The debt-fuelled spending and the fire storm of regulation that we have witnessed in most of the developed world since the global financial crisis and like Australia countries are pursing alternative approaches so they can try and establish sustainable economic growth high enough to reduce unemployment. the policieis of the last seven years are failing in that regard. And so many are looking to live within their means as governments and if they are going to reduce government spending they have got to replace it with something, or else they will further trash their economy. And, like here, they are looking to replace big government, and many other countries are, with robust growth of the private sector.

GARRETT: Free trade deals such as those signed recently with Japan and South Korea are at the heart of the new econoomic diplomacy policy but Foreign Minister Bishop says it goes much further than that .

BISHOP: Economic diplomacy is an overarching principle that puts strong economic outcomes at the centre of our foreign, trade, investment, tourism and development assistance policies. I also see economic dipomacy as changing the approach of government to more closely engage with the private sector, the business community and non-government organisations in all our work, both in our country and in our partner countries, particularly in our region.

GARRETT: The new economic diplomacy will be tailored to each country and region. In China it will continue to focus on concluding a free trade deal by the end of the year and on high-level meetings with prospective investors.

In the Pacific, the focus is on private sector partnerships and re-orienting development assistance towards the goal of spending 20% of aid on aid for trade by 2020.

Foreign Minister Bishop says the policy is being enthrusiasticly embraced by Australia’s diplomats.

BISHOP: Every post from Ankara to Amman, from Shanghai to Suva, New York to New Delhi has submitted a strategy with highly specific local goals. they have produced and we have put it all together, they have produced over 2000 specific practical ideas to implement across our global diplomatic footprint.

GARRETT: Trade Minister Andrew Robb has been the driving force behind Australia’s accelerated negotiations for free trade arrangements.

In his speech, Mr Robb did not mention the Pacific or PACER Plus, the sometimes controversial and difficult free trade deal proposed to link Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

But during question time, he revealled that too is on his agenda.

ROBB: Now with Fiji back in the fold, negotiations have reached a stage where I can put a proposition to cabinet so that I can be in a postion, perhaps, to try and advance it significantly if not close it next year. We do put a high priority on it. Given the nature of it and in many of those countries the absence of the same sort of infrastructure you’ve got in the developed countries it has been a slower process but I do think the ducks are lining up and all the key players are there with ..oh, Brett Mason who is the parl-sec (parliamentary-secretary) to Julie (Bishop) has been doing some excellent work and has been through the region extensively and we have got a good feel for what we have got to do to close this deal and we are going to do our best to make that happen.