JULIE BISHOP: I am delighted to be in the United States for the G’Day USA events. This is the largest public diplomacy initiative undertaken by any nation in the United States and it’s an opportunity for us not only to showcase the best of Australia to one of the most remarkable market places in the world but also an opportunity to broaden and strengthen and deepen this already strong relationship.
Today I gave the keynote address at a US-Australia Dialogue and I emphasised the importance of our region to US interests and to Australia’s interests and the opportunities for Australia and United States to continue to work to promote peace, prosperity, security and stability in our part of the world.
I also had the opportunity this afternoon to take a call from Vice President Mike Pence and it was a very warm and engaging discussion about a whole range of issues and we spoke about opportunities for an early meeting with the Vice President and also with other counterparts in the new Trump Administration and it was a very positive and genuine discussion. I certainly look forward to working with Vice President Pence and other members of the Trump Administration.
JOURNALIST: Did you raise anything about the visa waiver scheme?
JULIE BISHOP: We had a discussion about a whole range of issues but it was our first contact so I won’t go into the details of the specific issues we discussed, but we spoke about a range of global and regional challenges that the United State and Australia both face and we spoke about a number of bilateral issues as well.
JOURNALIST: Is the refugee swap agreed to in November going to go ahead and have you discussed this with the new Administration?
JULIE BISHOP: I’ve had a number of discussions with members of the Administration and most certainly we’ve discussed a range of bilateral issues. I won’t go into the details but I have discussed many issues with the incoming Administration.
JOURNALIST: Do you have confidence that deal will go ahead?
JULIE BISHOP: I believe that the United States and Australia will continue to work together to assist each other in implementing our strong border protection policies.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned Australians might face a more difficult time to get access to the US?
JULIE BISHOP: We will certainly be working very closely with the United States to ensure that Australians continue to have access to the United States as Americans have access to Australia. We are two very like-minded countries. In fact, there are few countries that have a relationship as close as that of the United States and Australia and we will continue to work together to broaden and strengthen and deepen this very strong relationship.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the President’s decision to build a wall and charge Mexico a twenty percent tax?
JULIE BISHOP: The President is giving support to the policies that he took to the last election. It’s early days of the new Administration and I’m not going to give a running commentary on every policy position that the United States Administration now announces, but we most certainly will be watching the policies very closely as they are announced and we’ll continue to ensure that we act in Australia’s national interest when it comes to our relationship with the United States.
JOURNALIST: Minister, is there any concern that the new Administration could tear up the FTA, the current FTA and tax Australian exports?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement works very much in the US favour in the sense that there is a significant trade surplus. We have a trade deficit with the United States and there certainly has been no indication at all that the Administration is looking to renegotiate the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. It has benefited both nations enormously over the last decade and particularly for Australia in terms of government procurement contracts, the ease of young people gaining access to the United States, educational opportunities, so the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement has served both nations well.
JOURNALIST: Is Australia concerned that they could get a twenty percent tax on imports – that the US might put that on?
JULIE BISHOP: This is not a matter that has been raised in any discussions we have had with the new Trump Administration.
JOURNALIST: But it was said today, it was said during the press conference that it could be on all countries.
JULIE BISHOP: This is not a discussion that we’ve had with any member of the new Trump Administration. It is early days – we are obviously listening to the policy pronouncements as they are made, but of course the detail will be important.
Australia is uniquely placed to discuss matters of importance with the United States and we will be working to ensure that the bilateral relationship continues to advance our national interest.
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