14 Nov 2011

Parties concerned public being kept in dark over TPP

9:06 pm on 14 November 2011

Some political parties say New Zealanders are being kept in the dark about what is being negotiated under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

At the meeting of APEC leaders in Honolulu at the weekend, United States President Barack Obama said the nine countries negotiating the deal intend reaching an agreement within 12 months, but acknowledged that there are plenty of difficult talks to come, including on barriers to agricultural trade.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says New Zealanders have no idea what is being traded away under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and is calling on National leader John Key to spell this out before the election on 26 November.

Dr Norman thinks New Zealand's stance on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) will definitely be up for negotiation.

"The United States has made no secret of the fact that it hates our rules around genetically-modified organisms and it wants to get rid of food products with GMOs in them and it wants to allow for open, large-scale release of GMOs in New Zealand because currently there's some restraints on it.

"So we don't know whether the Key Government is giving away our rules around GE either."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the public needs to be told what is being included in the talks.

"There's a whole host of things that are going on that the public is not being told about and I am concerned about agriculture because we have been shut out in the past by the United States.

"I do not see any improvement or any promises being made by the Prime Minister or our Trade Negotiations Minister on this issue."

The Maori Party says it wants to ensure that the TPP will not impact on any deals iwi have, while the Mana Party could not be reached for comment.

Labour fears for Pharmac

One of the main concerns for the Labour Party is the Government's drug-buying agency Pharmac and whether it is on the table.

Leader Phil Goff says increased trade should not come at the agency's expense.

"What we're not in favour of is in any way trading off Pharmac as an organisation. That guarantees cheap medicine for New Zealanders and the Government should die in a ditch before giving that away to the big drug companies that are pushing the Americans to ask for it."

National Party leader John Key says it is too early to say what the agreement will look like, but Pharmac works very well as it is now.

"We're not about to trade away that model just to get a free trade agreement with the United States and the other members of TPP.

"We always look at the balance of benefits and there's always a bit of give and take in any free trade agreement, but I'm confident that the benefits we've enjoyed from Pharmac will be maintained if we sign the TPP."

Fine print the key, says Dunne

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations involve nine countries and now Japan has signalled it wants to join discussions.

ACT Party leader Don Brash says it is good Japan is willing to talk, given its stance on protecting its agriculture industry.

"Well, the trade protection is there now - so we can't be any worse off than we are currently. Japan is very protectionist indeed. But the fact that they're willing to enter discussions, I think is very positive."

United Future leader Peter Dunne says there is still a long way to go, but thinks the idea of a comprehensive Pacific trading block is good, and they key is the fine print of the agreement.

"I'd like to see us get to the point where this is more than something that can be overturned by any change of administration in the United States ... where there is buy-in of a genuine nature between all the prospective partners, and where some of the issues that now have to be negotiated in-depth are starting to be discussed and worked their way through."

If the new deadline is met, the deal will be finalised before the next US presidential election in 2012.