28 Oct 2014

'Finish line in sight' for trade deal

9:38 am on 28 October 2014

Talks toward achieving a Pacific wide trade deal have made good progress but there is still still much to be done, Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser says.

Tim Groser.

Tim Groser. Photo: AFP

Asia Pacific ministers have been in Sydney for three days of negotiations led by Australian Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb.

Mr Groser said the talks covered nations with 40 percent of the world's GDP and 30 percent of world trade, so they are obviously difficult, but he was still pleased.

"Everyone's seen real progress here, it's probably the most solid ministerial meeting I've attended in the last three years so we're within sight of a finish line but that does not mean we are necessarily going to cross it successfully.

"The most likely timeframe in which we can make a political decision that there's a deal there to present to out publics is the first quarter of next year."

Mr Groser said New Zealand could still walk away from a deal if it excluded New Zealand's top export, dairy products, but he did not think this will happen.

Trade representatives say negotiations for the deal made significant progress, but a gap remains between Japan and the United States over market access and other obstacles.

Mr Robb said an ambitious, high-quality and balanced deal is starting to take shape and countries involved are now having to consider making some compromises.

Auckland law professor and opponent of the trade deal, Jane Kelsey, has been in Sydney for the talks and told Morning Report she did not think New Zealand would back out at this stage.

She said the country is likely to end up accepting less than it wants from the deal, as Mr Groser will say it is too big for New Zealand not to be part of.

US President Barack Obama is aiming to reach agreement between the 12 nations by the time they meet at APEC in Beijing in November.

However, bilateral talks between Japan and the United States stalled in Washington in September, with neither prepared to agree on reducing trade barriers for beef and pork.

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