Key on TPP

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key will play ‘wing man’ to US president Barack Obama this morning, as the pair push for a Pacific trade pact to be completed. …

Obama will lead the meeting this morning and then look to New Zealand to make an ”intervention,” Key explained.

“Our message [is] there’s a real opportunity to complete the Trans Pacific Partnership. It won’t happen without goodwill, give and take and shove from the leaders.

“This is our opportunity to get it over the line… there’s a lot to be gained.”

Sticking points include intellectual property rights and agriculture.

”It’s easy to identify the big issues…but then there is potentially a pathway through. I don;t think it has to become a lose lose situation. In the end New Zealand would never sign a deal unless it was in our best interests. We might have to give a little bit on one or two of those areas.”

I would love our exporters and especially our dairy sector to get US trade barriers lifted against them.

I don’t want NZ to agree to anything which changes our intellectual property laws – they already reflect a hard fought balance and compromise. I also want NZ to reject effective trade barriers such as bans on parallel  importing.

I understand to get a deal that compromise is needed. But that doesn’t mean any compromise is a good compromise. The Internet is hugely important to our future, as a geographically isolated nation. Agreeing to something which would introduce greater liability and uncertainty to Internet providers and publishers is not in our best interests.

The US needs the TPP to occur more than NZ does. It is of strategic importance to the US. With NZ, it is more a “very nice to have” in terms of trade access. We already have trade deals with China, Australia and many countries in Asia. Don’t get me wrong – I’d like a TPP which lowers trade barriers with the US, and other signatories. But I am skeptical of the US track record on meaningful concessions on trade barriers (The US-AU FTA was disappointingly weak) and a TPP along the lines of the US and Aus FTA would not be worth doing.

The Herald reports:

Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser, who is also in Cambodia, described the launch of the RCEP as “a wonderful symmetry between the two” for New Zealand.

While there was the chance of tension between the two deals, it had not been set up like that, he said.

“Our policy is we will dance with anybody provided they are prepared to engage in a high-quality FTA.

“It’s not like a cunning ploy but you can see quite clearly the possibility of creative tension.

“If RCEP just goes round in circles and TPP goes forward, it will put pressure on RCEP – equally the other way round.”

I like the way Groser thinks. While the timing is not deliberate, we can use the RCEP negotiations to put pressure on the US to be more flexible on the IP chapter of TPP. All NZ has to do is stay firm on its current negotiating position, while the US sees RCEP making progress. I’m confident they’ll then see the merits of a less dogmatic IP chapter and then we get a high quality TPP – a win win.

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