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No trade-off for tariff deal with US: govt

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March 11, 2018

Steve Ciobo denies Australia's US tariff exemption is a quid pro quo for a military promise (file).

Australia won't be obliged to join whatever America's next military outing is just because the Turnbull government secured exemptions from steel and aluminium tariffs, our trade minister insists.

US President Donald Trump said in a tweet his administration was "working very quickly on a security agreement so we don't have to impose steel or aluminum (sic) tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia".

He also lauded Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's commitment to "a very fair and reciprocal military and trade relationship", after eight months of Australian ministers and officials putting just this argument to the Trump administration.

Questions have been raised over what such a security agreement might entail, especially in light of Mr Trump telling the prime minister in February he would love Australia to join the US on new freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.

But Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says there's no implicit understanding about a quid pro quo linking trade and military promises.

"I've seen some, frankly, incredibly wild theories emanating from all quarters including some journalists who should know better," he told ABC TV on Sunday.

"It is effectively just about the paperwork, for lack of a better term, that's got to be undertaken."

Labor's finance spokesman Jim Chalmers said it remained to be seen what expectations might be attached to the deal, but Australia did already have a long history of co-operation with the US on both economic and military fronts.

"I think a whole range of factors come into these sorts of deals that are made between countries, not just the military one but economic co-operation as well," he told Sky News.

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