9 Nov 2011

Trade talk opponents demand to see deal

6:19 pm on 9 November 2011

Opponents of a trans-Pacific trade negotiation involving New Zealand and the United States have demanded that National Party leader John Key show them the deal.

The nine countries involved in the negotiations are expected to endorse the structure of a deal at the APEC leaders meeting in Honolulu at the weekend.

But opponents want the full details of the proposed deal released publicly before the 26 November general election.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations involve Chile, Australia, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Peru and Malaysia - but from New Zealand's perspective the US is the big prize.

At a protest against the proposed deal, the Green Party list MP and Coromandel candidate Catherine Delahunty said voters deserved to know from Mr Key more about the deal.

"At risk, for example, is our access to affordable drugs if (drug-buying agency) Pharmac is undermined by the deal that he's planning to do.

"We have no access to this information - it's outrageous."

John Key says it is normal not to release negotiating texts beforehand. "But these things have to be ratified by Parliament ... and I think if you look at the history of New Zealand, one thing can say we're blessed with is very good negotiators.

"I'll be backing them to make sure they get the best deal for New Zealand," he added.

Mr Key, who is not going to the APEC leaders meeting, says there is likely to be some announcement about the TPP at the gathering though he's not sure what US President Barack Obama will say.

Aside from being concerned about the secrecy of the dealmaking, critics also say the deal could undermine the country's sovereignty, including restricting the power of Pharmac to buy cheap medicines.

The Maori Party's Te Tai Tonga MP and candidate, Rahui Katene, says it must be ensured that Pharmac continues to work in the way that suits New Zealand.

Mr Key sought to downplay worries about Pharmac, saying New Zealand negotiators are acutely aware of the value of Pharmac which has allowed the country to have very widespread drug-buying benefits at low cost.

But he still leaves open the possibility there might be some give and take over Pharmac, an area where US negotiators are keen to force concessions.

Critics of the proposed deal argue that if National gives any ground in negotiations it would strengthen the rights of American corporates while undermining patient care here.