Article – BusinessDesk
Nov. 16 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s trade aspirations are well-served by the sudden interest in expanding trade agreements in the Asia Pacific region, and is a consequence of the global downturn and sovereign debt woes facing Europe, says …
NZ to benefit from push for Asia Pacific trade deals, English says
By Paul McBeth
Nov. 16 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s trade aspirations are well-served by the sudden interest in expanding trade agreements in the Asia Pacific region, and is a consequence of the global downturn and sovereign debt woes facing Europe, says Finance Minister Bill English.
Leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hawaii last week were looking at ways to promote jobs and lift incomes, and trade is one of the few options available to them, English told a media briefing in Wellington. That’s helped build momentum for removing barriers to trade, and given US President Barack Obama more freedom to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
The TPP, which aims to align regulatory settings in a region-wide block to reduce the barriers and costs of trade, got a boost last week after Japan, Canada and Mexico indicated their interest in signing up to the agreement.
The deal is still in negotiations, though leaders of the nine nations announced the broad outlines of the agreement at the APEC meeting. Canada, Japan and Mexico aren’t expected to join the talks in the immediate future.
The TPP negotiations grew out of New Zealand’s P4 deal with Chile, Brunei and Singapore, with the US, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Peru joining the talks in the past two years.
English said the economic prospects of the Asia Pacific region were helping offset the turmoil facing Europe, with growth in that region forecast to exceed developed nations by four to five times.
“The limitations are New Zealand’s capacity to get enough people and capital focused on the export opportunities,” he said.
Trade Minister Tim Groser said APEC’s statement “considerably exceeded” his expectations and he couldn’t “recall a trade negotiation where the United States has been involved where something so bold has been put on the table.”
The strength of Asia Pacific nations was helping drive trade deals as a way to help their economies grow, Groser said. That meant he and Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson could announce Indonesia will enable its participation in the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area from next year, as well as opening up New Zealand’s trade links to China Taipei and Russia.
“It’s about jobs and it’s about being part of the action and if you’re not doing it in the Asia Pacific, you’re not part of the game,” he said.
The TPP has been criticised by opponents for its lack of transparency, and Auckland University academic Jane Kelsey says the terms of the deal will sign away New Zealand legislators’ ability to do their job.
Groser talked down concerns the government will sign away the powers of state-owned drug-buying agency Pharmac as part of the deal, saying the fundamentals of the model aren’t up for negotiation.
He also tried to quell fears the deal would open New Zealand up to legal action from multi-national companies trying to force regulatory change, saying the agreement would allow governments to protect the public interest.
“We will never agree to an open-ended formulation that stops a responsible future New Zealand government from doing its normal business protecting the public in these areas,” he said.