Trade and growth at centre of Turnbull’s G20 pitch – September 2016

Filed under: Economy and Finance, Economy, Politics, Foreign Affairs, Trade and industry,

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged world leaders to resist rising calls for protectionism, mostly stemming from slow economic growth.

At the G20 meeting in the Chinese city Hangzhou, Mr Turnbull said: “Protectionism is not a ladder to get us out of the low growth trap. It's a shovel to dig that hole deeper and make the problem much more intractable.

Before he left China, Mr Turnbull said the key themes that Australia had been advancing were innovation, trade and open markets.

“These are the keys to reinvigorating global growth. That's what we need to do to escape what's been described as the low growth trap.

“There is a real commitment to these objectives and a real recognition from all of the leaders with whom I have spoken, whether it's in the big session, where everyone's sitting around the table, whether it's in more informal encounters in the course of the events or whether it's in the bilaterals.

“Everybody recognises that we need to do a better job of explaining the benefits of trade, of open markets, explaining why innovation, economic reform, reducing regulation, reducing barriers to business formation, to trade, are so critical to ensuring that we maintain strong economic growth and indeed, achieve stronger economic growth.

“Australia, of course, does have relative, to almost all the other countries of the G20, very strong economic growth and certainly, stronger than any of the comparable developed countries. We are doing better than most but there is a lot more to be done.”

“I will just make one observation about the meeting with [British] Prime Minister Theresa May.

“Britain has made a momentous choice to leave the European Union. This is a historic choice. We say a lot of things are historic in politics and commentary, but this is a very historic choice. Britain has enormous challenges.”

He said Mrs May had made it clear that Britain would not give their notice to quit under Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon and before the end of the year, but the expected time line for Britain's exit to take effect is no later than the end of 2018 or early 2019.

“That's not a long time away. It's a couple of years away. So Britain has an enormous amount of work to do to put in place new free trade agreements, to replace in their own system all of that European legislation.

“This is going to create an enormous gap in their own system, so it's a huge challenge. They don't have any trade negotiators. They haven't had to negotiate a trade agreement for over 40 years because they've been part of the European system.

“So Theresa May is very grateful, as she has said, for the assistance we're providing, both at a legislative level, in the sense of making available our resources to help them address the trade challenges they have.

“And of course, from our point of view, getting in to deal with the British early, to ensure that we are able to negotiate a very strong, very open Free Trade Agreement with Britain once they are actually out of the European Union.”

Australia and Britain have agreed to establish a negotiating mechanism immediately at officials level to work on such an agreement.

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