24 Nov 2017

Govt urged to call TPP meeting to ensure momentum

11:46 am on 24 November 2017

The government has been urged to get all the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations around the table to finish the deal, or risk it falling over.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks with Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker at the TPP meeting on the sidelines of APEC. Photo: AFP

The new TPP is all but agreed, with only a few areas still to be resolved.

The National Party is worried momentum to conclude the 11-nation trade pact is stalling, and extra effort is needed.

"The problem you have is not dealing with one issue for one country be it Vietnam or probably more likely to be Canada," National's trade spokesperson Todd McClay said.

"It's that once you start saying, 'how do we address this for Canada?' others will say, 'what about me?'"

The trade pact covers nearly half a billion people and accounts for 14 percent of global economic activity, or about US$10 trillion.

Of the four areas still on the table, Malaysia wants more time to adjust to rules governing its state-owned enterprises and Brunei wants a more lenient approach to its coal industry.

Vietnam is also seeking more time before it could face sanctions for violating the pact's labour laws.

And Canada wants more freedom to force companies to provide preferential treatment to protect its French heritage.

Mr McClay wants the government to show some leadership, saying his successor, David Parker, should bring his counterparts to New Zealand to thrash out the outstanding issues.

Mr Parker has given that suggestion short shrift.

"You can sometimes have too many meetings which can open extra cans of worms, rather than seal the deal."

Mr Parker doesn't believe the outstanding issues will jinx an agreement.

"Assuming there is goodwill on the part of those parties that are involved, those remaining issues should be relatively easy to resolve within months," Mr Parker said.

The business sector will be hoping that proves to be the case.

"You've got to think they will get it done now," APEC Business Advisory Council New Zealand delegate Phil O'Reilly said.

Mr O'Reilly said much rests with Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to harry and cajole the other leaders to seal the deal.

While Japan is pushing for a quick conclusion to the new TPP, Canada has already warned it won't make any hasty decisions.

Auckland law professor and TPP critic Jane Kelsey is urging the government to adopt the same approach.

Professor Kelsey said the Labour-led coalition promised proper consultation before the country signed up.

"What Japan is proposing in terms of its timeline, especially a signing in February next year would make it impossible for David Parker to deliver on the kind of consultation that he's promising."

Mr Parker is adamant the government is keeping the public in the loop about the TPP, though he admits he will not please everyone.

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