Australia disagrees with US on tariffs, Trade Minister says

Australian Trade Minister, Steven Ciobo, a key speaker at the 2018 Milken Conference. (Bloomberg pic)

TOKYO: Tariffs aren’t the answer when it comes to trade policy, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said, adding that Australia will continue to push to remove barriers around the world.

“President Trump clearly believes that the imposition of tariffs is the way forward for the United States,” he said in an interview in Tokyo on Thursday. “It’s a different policy position from Australia’s.”

Ciobo is in Tokyo for negotiations on the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trade deal that includes China, Japan and India, but not the US. He said the parties are working to reach a “substantial conclusion” by the end of the year. “Let’s call it a stretch target, but there’s a lot of goodwill in the room to try to achieve that,” he said.

He added that he thinks the TPP-11, the revised trade agreement that Trump abandoned early in his administration, will enter into force late 2018 or early next year.

The government is pursuing multiple trade deals, Ciobo said, pointing to negotiations with the Pacific Alliance countries in South America, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the European Union.

Australia is open to both bilateral and multilateral deals, he added. “Certainly the holy grail is, of course, a multilateral deal,” while adding that such deals are difficult to negotiate and implement.