The Trans-Pacific Partnership could sit on ice for two years unless US President Barack Obama gets fast-track approval for the free trade deal in the next two weeks, Trade Minister Tim Groser says.
The US House of Representatives narrowly passed the "fast track authority" designed to speed up the signing of the TPP, but it would not go into law because another measure on help workers who lose their jobs because of the free trade deal was defeated.
Both parts of the bill need to be passed and another vote on the legislation could take place as soon as Tuesday.
Mr Groser said the outcome of that could determine whether a meeting of trade ministers next month would conclude the deal, or simply put it on ice.
"If they pass it, then we're back on track and back to plan A, and that'll be great. But if it doesn't, I think we've got to be realistic, I don't think this negotiation will get up again for another two years," he said.
Opponent of the free trade deal, Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey said the latest setback was down to growing concerns about what impact the TPP could have on people's lives, based on the experience after previous free trade deals.
"They're worried about what it means for ordinary American workers and they're experience has been that deals like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) have not been good," she said.
Jane Kelsey said last week's leak of documents showing the TPP's threat to the drug agency Pharmac only added to those concerns.
Mr Groser said while the TPP is not perfect, it was shaping up to be a good deal for New Zealand.
Executive director of the New Zealand International Business Forum Stephen Jacobi said while it was a blow, there was still a chance the legislation could still be passed next week.
He said the two pieces of legislation could be split up so they would not have to be passed together.
"The fact of the matter is the Democrats have just scored an amazing own goal."
Growing concern from politicians
A leading campaigner against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal says the latest setback to it shows there is growing concern about the impact of free-trade deals on people's lives.
Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey said American politicians were increasingly wary of the impact the TPP could have.
"They're worried about what it means for ordinary American workers, and their experience has been that [similar deals] have not been good."
She said time was running out for President Barack Obama to get the bill passed under his watch.