ABC News Breakfast, Canberra, Interview with Virginia Trioli

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: The election of Donald Trump to the White House could lead to the biggest shake up in international relations in decades. To discuss this, I am pleased to be joined from Canberra by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Minister, good morning. Thanks for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Pleasure. Good morning.

JOURNALIST: Is the world a less secure place now with Donald Trump as President?

JULIE BISHOP: It is certainly a different place because any US Presidential election has implications for the globe. But this is a momentous change and we see it as an opportunity for Australia to work very closely and constructively with the new President and his Administration to ensure that we maintain US presence and leadership in the Asia Pacific. That is in our national interest.

JOURNALIST: It is, indeed, in our national interest, but we are not necessarily, at least according to what we heard from the President-elect during the campaign, we're not at all on the same page in that regard. Is this a hope rather than a proper expectation?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, Donald Trump made it quite clear that as a businessman he is a negotiator and has said that everything is up for negotiation and we are certainly going to seize that opportunity and continue to engage with the Trump transition team – as we have been doing for many months now – and ensure that Australia's voice is heard in the new Administration.

JOURNALIST: You heard there Maha Yahya, from the Carnegie Middle East Center, the point and raising concerns about what Donald Trump has been saying in relation to Syria and also in relation to close connections with Russia. What are your concerns about that?

JULIE BISHOP: I am deeply concerned about the current situation in Syria and I have attended a number of the International Syria Support Group meetings, that is the Foreign Ministers of countries with relevant interests in the outcome of the Syrian conflicts, and it has been very frustrating that there have been no new ideas or resolutions put forward to actually resolve not only the military conflict but the humanitarian crisis. So I'll be looking forward to new ideas and new thinking and hopefully work closely with the new Administration to come up with a solution that sees an end to the bloody conflict in Syria that has been raging for years now.

JOURNALIST: But given what we have heard from Donald Trump and his closeness with Putin and allowing Russia to take more of a role there in Syria, are you actually optimistic that you might get new ideas from him?

JULIE BISHOP: The Obama Administration began working closely with the Putin Administration, but clearly it is at a very low point at present, but they began very optimistically, that Russia and the United Statest could work together to resolve it and there were discussions for ceasefires, that didn't hold. The challenge is that while ever the Assad Regime believes that it can crush the opposition militarily, while ever the opposition backed by the US and other Arab countries thinks that it can crush the Assad Regime, there will be in end to the conflict. So I hope there will be a new approach adopted and Australia will certainly take part in those discussions.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned before the global outlook in the Asia region in particular. What does this election mean for the global economy? Donald Trump is threatening taxes on imports from China, protection for manufacturing jobs, tearing up the TPP. As a free trading nation, as an exponent of and fierce advocate of free trade, where does this leave us? Does it leave us on the outer?

JULIE BISHOP: When you look at what Donald Trump has been promising, he's been promising to do trade deals that advantage American businesses, American industry and he is focusing on more job opportunities for Americans. Now they are the sentiments that all countries seek for their own people - more jobs, more manufacturing, greater industrial activity. He's not saying he won't enter into trade deals, he just thinks that the United States has got a raw deal from some of them. Not the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement where the US has a trade surplus, I believe that will continue. But the Trans Pacific Partnership he maintains was not a good deal for the United States. Now whether the other parties to that Agreement want to renegotiate remains to be seen, but Australia has other options. We are looking at a free trade agreement with the ASEAN countries and China and others, so we will continue to promote the benefits of open market economies, and Australia depends on our ability to export our goods and services around the world.

JOURNALIST: But it does look like the TPP is dead in your estimation?

JULIE BISHOP: The Obama Administration has maintained that it would seek to push it through the Congress, but I expect that was in anticipation of a Clinton win. Now that it is President-elect Trump, I don't know the likelihood of the Obama Administration continuing to push the TPP, but that remains to be seen. I had a long discussion with Ambassador Joe Hockey this morning and he has been working closely with the Obama Administration about the Trans Pacific Partnership so we will see what approach the Obama Administration takes from now on.

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop, do you think a woman can ever be elected President of the United States?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, they said an African American would never be elected President of the United States and President Obama served for two terms. So, of course, the American dream is that anyone born in the United States can end up as the President of the United States. So they have a new President, a majority of those who came out to vote elected Donald Trump. And we have to see it as an opportunity for Australia to be able to push forward with our interests, as they are aligned with the United States, and the United States is our major defence partner, our security guarantor, our major source of foreign direct investment, our second largest trading partner. So whomever is President of the United States, it is incumbent on the Australian Government to work constructively, productively with that President.

JOURNALIST: We are very short of time, Minister. Just very quickly, any political lessons out of this, in your view, for Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: It is a very different system over there and I think the impact of the Global Financial Crisis in the United States was far more profound than perhaps we had appreciated. Of course, Australia didn't go through a recession, Australia has had 25 consecutive years of economic growth, but of course there are always lessons to be learned from elections and I am sure that in the weeks, months, years to come, people will be analysing what this election result actually meant.

JOURNALIST: Minister, great having you on the show. Thanks so much.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

- Ends -

Media enquiries