Trade deal on the way?

by david on August 25, 2015

Fonterra Hawera plantIT IS understood that top officials from 12 Pacific nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact are planning to convene in Hawaii at the end of this month for a final push to get agreement – an indication that we may be nearing a deal.
The US Congress last month expanded negotiating authority for President Barack Obama, setting up a potentially deal clinching meeting of trade officials.
It’s estimated the TPP would add about 2% a year to the New Zealand economy. Services, tourism and IT would make up about 40% of this increase, agriculture 25%, the remainder coming from investment. The TPP region represents 792 million consumers and 40% of world trade. In 2012, trade among TPP partners was at least $2 trillion.
According to a professor of international finance at Brandeis University, Peter Petri, recently in New Zealand, a successful TPP agreement appears more likely now the US has agreed to fast-track negotiations.
For NZ, one of the biggest sticking points is access for its dairy products: the US, Canada and Japan have highly protected dairy industries.
The US is believed to be pushing Japan to open its long-protected market for beef, pork, dairy and rice products. Japan, in turn, is seeking the end of US tariffs on cars and trucks.
Petri claims the US is “for the most part” working with NZ on dairy issues.
“The big problem now is Japan and Canada, and even in Canada you have a modern dairy industry which would sooner be rid of supply management,” Petri said.
Regarding the controversy over the TPP, Petri believes the issue has not been handled well politically. “They should have kept negotiations within the room but at least described the broad lines of negotiations more publicly.”
However, conspiracy claims – led by anti-TPP critics such as Jane Kelsey and politicians who know better – about the TPP being a ‘big business’ takeover of our national sovereignty, and other scare stories, are laughable.
It is deplorable that the anti-TPP people like Kelsey et al get to make such uncontested claims and have unfettered media coverage. Yet the work and word of honest and dedicated people such as special agriculture trade envoy Mike Petersen and diplomatic, trade and government expert Stephen Jacobi, who believe the TPP will have huge benefits for NZ, are ignored.
Petersen and Jacobi – or the NZ Government for that matter – are hardly going to sell our country or the agriculture sector down the river to benefit the Gnomes of Zurich or any other interest group.
Meanwhile, Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Institute of International Economics, believes the planned high-level negotiating session suggests officials from most or all the countries believe an agreement is within reach now that Congress has approved the negotiating authority Obama sought.
“I think a deal is close, but the end of July seems optimistic. The end of August seems more likely.”
Let’s hope so. New Zealand – our agriculture sector especially – stand to benefit greatly.

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