New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser is optimistic a
Pacific-wide trade deal will be struck in the first half of
next year, despite negotiations for the Trade Pacific
Partnership coming to an unsuccessful close overnight.
Speaking from host country Singapore, Mr Groser told Radio
New Zealand "tremendous progress" had been made between
delegates of the 12 negotiating countries, which include US,
Australia, Japan and Malaysia.
"I think we've got momentum and I think that momentum is
accelerating," he said.
"This has been a very complicated exercise, we're making
tremendous progress. We're likely to be meeting again ... in
a few weeks."
Mr Groser deflected criticisms the trade negotiations could
result in more expensive medicines for New Zealanders.
"There are clear red lines around health policy, particularly
around Pharmac. There are red lines we've drawn around
intellectual property rights. We'll require some adjustments
but nothing that will cost New Zealand too much," he told
"I can give you a categorical assurance that New Zealanders
will not be paying higher prices for their pharmaceuticals as
a consequence of TPP [Trade Pacific Partnership]."
Former Labour trade minister Phil Goff, who was the architect
of the TPP proposal, said last night agreement between the
partners would benefit New Zealand more than most countries
"We have the least barriers and therefore we have the least
we have to give away," he said. "Other countries have to give
away much more."
Auckland University Law Professor Jane Kelsey, who was in
Singapore observing the TPP meeting, was critical of the
negotiating process and outcome.
"Their decision to convene another meeting of ministers in
just one month's time signals a serious intent to maintain
political pressure and conclude the agreement early in 2014."
The December to January period was the ideal time to minimise
public, media and political scrutiny with many of the
countries involved on Christmas holiday, she said.
Professor Kelsey also said disagreement around intellectual
property rights was one of the major issues left over from
the trade talks.
New Zealand, Australia and Canada appear to have surrendered
to an as-yet-undisclosed version of US-based demands on
intellectual property that they have consistently deemed
unacceptable, she said.
"The US behaviour is not surprising. What is shocking is that
other countries would make major concessions without a firm
US market access offer and knowing that Obama cannot
guarantee to deliver any deal through the Congress,"
Professor Kelsey said.
- Teuila Fuatai of APNZ and Audrey Young of the New