6 Oct 2015

After five years, TPP deal is done

10:10 am on 6 October 2015

After five years of negotiations and a marathon final session of talks, agreement has been reached on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Ministers at the start of TPP talks in Atlanta.

Country representatives at the start of talks in Atlanta. Photo: Twitter / @USTradeRep

Talks in the United States among the trade ministers of 12 Pacific countries including New Zealand, have resulted in the most sweeping trade liberalisation pact in a generation.

The deal relates to areas of trade ranging from drug patent protection and digital data protection, to access to foreign dairy markets, which has been crucial to the New Zealand negotiation team.

The negotiations were conducted in secret, resulting in large protests across the Pacific Rim as the deal's terms were not publicly known.

The details will take some time to assess, but what is known is some tariffs on dairy exports will remain in place.

New Zealand had pushed for access to the Canadian dairy market, but Canada says it will open just 3.25 percent of its market to foreign imports.

Trade Minister Tim Groser speaks at a media conference announcing the TPP deal.

Trade Minister Tim Groser speaks at a media conference announcing the TPP deal. Photo: Twitter / @carlworker

Early this morning ministers held a media conference in Atlanta to discuss the pact.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said the details in terms of "tonnes of butter" did not matter, because the agreement would present opportunities that change countries' entire industry structures.

Prime Minister John Key said the trade deal would eliminate tariffs on 93 per cent of New Zealand's exports to new FTA partners the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Peru.

Dairy exporters would have access to these markets through newly created quotas, in addition to tariff elimination on a number of products.

"We're disappointed there wasn't agreement to eliminate all dairy tariffs but overall it's a very good deal for New Zealand," Mr Key said in a statement.

Tariffs on all other New Zealand exports to TPP countries will be eliminated, he said, with the exception of beef exports to Japan, where tariffs will reduce significantly.

Mr Key said consumers would not pay more for subsidised medicines as a result of TPP and the Pharmac model would not change, and Mr Groser said the government expected there to be few additional costs as a result of the changes to pharmaceuticals' monopoly period.

'Far from perfect'

Fonterra said the agreement was far from perfect for the dairy industry and the deal had failed to reach its potential.

Chairman John Wilson, who has been at the Atlanta negotiations, said dairy had been very hard to resolve and New Zealand managed to get some progress against the odds.

He was disappointed the deal fell far short of TPP's original ambition to eliminate all tariffs, but said there would be some useful gains for dairy exporters to the US, Canada and Japan.

Deal goes to parliaments

US President Barack Obama released a statement saying Americans would have months to read the Trans-Pacific Partnership before he signs it into law.

In the United States, the deal will next go to the Congress for consideration, and in New Zealand and other countries, it will go before the Parliament.

The 12 countries' legislatures will have no ability to re-negotiate the deal's terms, however, and will be limited to yes-or-no votes on signing it into law.

The TPP started in 2006 as an expansion of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, or P4, which was made up of Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand. More and more countries joined, including the United States in 2010.

Since then, in five years of talks, reaching agreement among the 12 nations had proven difficult, as issues such as market access for agricultural goods, tougher intellectual property rules, protection for pharmaceutical patents and investor state dispute rules proved politically sensitive.

Protesters against the TPP trade talks outside the hotel in Atlanta where negotiations are taking place.

Protesters in America oppose the negotiations. Photo: AFP

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs