JOURNALIST: Joining us now on the line is Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Ms Bishop, good evening.
JULIE BISHOP: Good evening, good to be with you.
JOURNALIST: Look I know Donald Trump has not yet declared victory but it seems very likely he will be the next President of the United States, are you happy to work with him?
JULIE BISHOP: Well the count is ongoing, voting in the 50th state, Alaska, has just closed, about half an hour ago, but you’re right, Donald Trump appears more likely to claim the Presidency at this stage. As I’ve said throughout the campaign, the Australian Government will work constructively with whomever the people of the United States in their wisdom choose as their President, and we have been assiduous in making contacts with both the Trump team and the Clinton team to establish constructive working relationships with both so that when the President is known and when the new President takes office after January 2017, Australia will be well positioned to engage in a constructive relationship with the new administration.
JOURNALIST: Trump has had a lot of harsh things to say about China in particular, he thinks that China’s trade policies have been badly affecting American business and American jobs. Is this going to make Australia difficult or our relationship with China difficult if Donald Trump is hostile towards Chinese business?
JULIE BISHOP: Donald Trump has run on a campaign of “America First”, and that has meant a significant focus on domestic policy, less focus on foreign policy, and so that is yet to be fully articulated, but we will be working very closely with the new Administration to ensure that our interests, not only Australia’s, but the interests of our region, are high on the agenda for the United States Administration.
In terms of trade policy, we have a free trade agreement with the United States, it’s longstanding. The US-Australia Free Trade Agreement was signed over 10 years ago and has been a great benefit to us both. Because the United States runs a trade surplus with us, we run a trade deficit, I can’t imagine that it would be reconsidered at all.
But the Trans Pacific Partnership, which is a regional free trade agreement involving Australia, Japan and others, has been opposed by both candidates, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We are hoping that the Obama Administration will be able to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership in what’s called the ‘transition period’ or the ‘lame duck period’ because President Obama is still the President with full executive and constitutional authority. This brings me to China. Should the TPP not be passed then a free trade agreement that involves China and the South East Asian nations is likely to come into focus and this is where we need to engage deeply with the United States to talk about the interests of the region, the peaceful rise of China, engaging with China and how we can work together to ensure there’s peace and stability in our region.
JOURNALIST: Well I know it would be great to talk about that but Trump has been very clear, he said he does not see things that way. I mean, he says that it’s American jobs first. The TPP, I mean, you say hopefully Barack Obama will sign it, it would be most unusual for a US President to put something into legislation that both major parties have now said they will repudiate.
JULIE BISHOP: The Obama Administration has made it quite clear to Australia and other parties to the Trans Pacific Partnership that they will be doing all they can to put the Trans Pacific Partnership into law. So we can only see how this transpires, but it will be up to Australia and other countries in our region to engage closely with the new Administration to ensure that the economic and security interests of our region are considered.
JOURNALIST: Could I ask you about military affairs? Something else Donald Trump has mentioned is that he wants to pull America out of fighting other people’s wars and he wants other countries to bear a greater cost of military involvement. Now I see two issues here: the plan to station 2500 US marines in Darwin, will that continue on?
JULIE BISHOP: I have no reason to believe that it will not, because Donald Trump has also spoken in terms of a larger US military presence, and he’s talked building a much stronger military. Defence policy is quite positive. So he’s also spoken about defeating ISIL. This is where our interests most certainly align and so I think it is too early to consider what a fully articulated foreign or defence policy will look like. Much will depend on the people he appoints as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence, and so we are focussing very much on areas where we know our interests align. Donald Trump supports stronger counter terrorism practices for example. As I said he supports greater defence spending, he has indicated he would increase defence spending as part of the promise to rebuild the military.
JOURNALIST: But he doesn’t support putting US boots on the ground in the Middle East, for example, so that says to me…
JULIE BISHOP: The Obama Administration doesn’t support putting boots on the ground in Syria either. So I think that it’s too early for us to say what a fully formed foreign policy would look like under a Trump Administration.
JOURNALIST: Donald Trump was criticised during the election campaign for comments he has made in the past about women – I won’t repeat them all here because some of them are quite base – but do you worry that he appears not to like women very much?
JULIE BISHOP: My job is as Foreign Minister of Australia and to work as closely and constructively as I can with whomever the people of the United States elect as their President, and I will be focussing on our interests and how we can work constructively with the United States in our interests, and that’s where my focus will be.
JOURNALIST: Did you personally hope that Hillary Clinton would win and become the first female President of the United States?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t have a vote in the US Presidential Election so my personal view is irrelevant. What I am hoping for is that we will have a strong, productive and constructive relationship with the new and incoming US administration.
JOURNALIST: Finally another thing, Donald Trump has made some very critical remarks about Islam – he wants to ban Muslims from coming to the United States – is that going to make life difficult for you?
JULIE BISHOP: We will seek to work closely with the United States as their foreign policy positions evolve, and that’s the role of close friends and allies and we have been deep and close friends of the United States for a very long time. And it will be incumbent upon our Post in Washington, me as Foreign Minister and of course the Prime Minister and other Ministers to establish constructive working relationships in all areas of interest. That will include immigration and defence, environment, all the economic and strategic interests that we have with the United States.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop thank you for your time.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister of Australia.
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