The TPP must be an agreement that brings down trade barriers - TV interview





SUBJECT/S: Syrian airstrikes; Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; Turnbull Government’s migration message.

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda coming to you live from New York this morning and joining me now Labor front bencher, Andrew Leigh. Andrew coincidently a lot is happening on the international stage and the bungled Syrian air strikes having reverberations at the UN. I know Labor supports the Australian involvement there. Isn’t it the fact that it’s a brutal reality that in a messy conflict like Syria that mistakes like this can happen?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Morning Kieran. It’s good to be with you, and I hope all is well in New York. Certainly what’s going on here is of deep concern. It reflects the fact that the Free Syrian army has now largely collapsed and this is now a conflict between the Syrian military and Al Qaeda and Daesh. That means of course that this is a serious blunder but it also highlights the fact that this is a conflict that has now been going on for more than five years.

GILBERT: The stalemate continues and hopefully the ceasefire will hold. I want to ask you about the Trans Pacific Partnership arrangement. The Prime Minister urging the Congress to support it but that window is closing with the Obama administration having not long to go and both Trump and Clinton opposing the TPP, as it’s known? 

LEIGH: As a Labor Member and as an economist I'm a passionate free trader and certainly supportive of anything that opens markets. But in the case of the Trans Pacific Partnership, Labor is concerned about the investor-state dispute clauses. We want to make absolutely sure that this is an agreement that is bringing down trade barriers rather than one that’s focused on intellectual property. Obviously the right time for our Parliament to consider this is after we see whether it’s gone through the US Congress. There’s no point in us wasting time looking at this deal if it doesn’t pass the Congress.

 GILBERT: And it looks very unlikely during what’s known as the lame duck session – that this economic arm of the Obama “pivot to Asia” – that was really the focus wasn't it? It was the economic pillar of the Obama “pivot to Asia”. If it doesn't get through the Congress, all that effort comes to naught.

LEIGH: I think that's right, Kieran. This won't be an agreement that others will sign into if the United States doesn't back it in. It's got geo-strategic implications, but first and foremost we do trade deals in order to bring down trade barriers. I believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership could have been struck as a better deal, but you can see now in the United States the moves afoot on both sides of politics to step back from the TPP. Hopefully that doesn't presage a large movement away from open markets.

GILBERT: And finally I want to ask you about the migration message that Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull will have for the UN Summit this week. They said they've got a strong story to tell and the Prime Minister makes the point – isn't it a fair one? That while there are differences to the challenge and the size of the challenge in Europe and elsewhere that the fundamental fact remains that if you don't control a country's borders, then you lose the public support for humanitarian programs and other related matters.

LEIGH: At the larger level, Australia is a great multicultural success story. I'm not sure we can do very much finger-pointing to other countries over the issue of refugees. We've just had two major reports come down recently. One report criticising the Abbott-Turnbull Government's management of offshore detention centres. Showing now that the annual per-detainee cost on Nauru is not $200,000 but nearly $600,000. And another report raising questions as to whether the appropriate systems were put in place to prevent corruption within the relevant departments. There's an awful lot that needs fixing up at home, before Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton go telling other countries how to run their refugee systems.

GILBERT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh thanks for your time. 

LEIGH: Thanks Kieran.


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