22 May 2017

Exporters applaud efforts to salvage TPP

6:24 pm on 22 May 2017

Major New Zealand exporters are applauding the government's efforts to salvage a massive trade deal, but a long-time opponent says it is basically dead in the water.

Protesters march down Queen Street

A protest against the TPP in Auckland in 2016: Exporters are welcoming moves to repair the deal but a critic says they won't get far. Photo: RNZ / Mohamed Hassan

The 11 countries still signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership yesterday announced they would look at ways to push ahead without the United States, which pulled out in January.

One of the country's largest meat processors, Anzco Foods, described the commitment as "an enormous step forward".

Founder Sir Graeme Harrison said it was a boon for free trade at a time when protectionism was looming large on the world stage.

"To actually see Japan taking a step in the other direction and other countries supporting it, that's enormous.

"Remember, when it comes to trade policy, Japan's always been a follower. Now it's a leader."

Sir Graeme was part of the business delegation travelling with Prime Minister Bill English in Japan last week.

He said the beef industry stood to benefit a great deal from the TPP, even without the United States.

"In the case of Japan, the tariff level reduces from 38.5 percent to 9 percent. That's enormous."

Dairy Companies Association executive director Kimberly Crewther was positive about the latest development.

"It's a demonstration that there is still strong support for global trade. That's very significant, including because there are protectionist clouds on the horizon."

She said the 11 countries involved accounted for nearly $2 billion of dairy trade.

Kiwifruit exporter Zespri has long supported the trade deal. Spokesperson Oliver Broad said it was encouraged by efforts to keep the agreement in play.

"The elimination of tariffs on kiwifruit imports into Japan would give us considerable gains. For instance, last season New Zealand growers paid about $25 million in tariffs just in the Japan market."

But a long-time critic of the deal, Jane Kelsey, warned the exporters not to celebrate just yet.

The Auckland University professor said, despite the government's "political spin", the 11 countries were far from unified.

"It's very clear that only New Zealand and Japan are wanting to keep the text as is. That means unravelling parts of it - and that means, as Bill English has conceded, that the deal will likely never see the light of day."

In his post-Cabinet news conference, Mr English said New Zealand stood to save more than $200m every year in tariffs if the deal went ahead.

He has said if the countries stuck with the current timetable, the TPP could begin in the first half of next year.

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