11 Dec 2013

Groser puts timeframe put on TPP talks

7:50 pm on 11 December 2013

New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser says he remains optimistic that agreement on a Trans Pacific Partnership could be concluded within six months. But he concedes the deal could still fall apart.

Talks in Singapore, where it was hoped a deal would be reached, have concluded without an agreement, but Mr Groser told Morning Report there is momentum and further meetings are likely within weeks.

He said he's confident a deal will be reached, but acknowledged there is a risk of failure, especially if the talks drag into the presidential election cycle in the United States.

He said vital clauses regarding intellectual property rights and health are being hammered out clause by clause, but New Zealand won't compromise its own interests to get a deal.

Tim Groser said it was Japan's highly protected agricultural industry that was really hampering the TPP negotiations.

He said although the United States faced formidable opposition to opening up its market it was nothing compared to the political problems Japan had.

But he said nevertheless, the Japanese government had made a very clear statement that they were committed to policy reform. "We'll just have to wait and see how far down the road they can get."

But Professor Jane Kelsey of Auckland University is sceptical of that and told Morning Report Mr Groser must release the details from the talks to prove it.

Professor Kelsey said highly reputable media are reporting the opposite of what Mr Groser is claiming.

New Zealand International Business Forum executive director Stephen Jacobi told Morning Report it was not the first time trade negotiations had missed a self imposed deadline.

He said substance needed to drive the negotiations and if that meant it took longer, then so be it.