RCEP meeting test of Labour's word: Kelsey

Jane Kelsey
Jane Kelsey
Arch Trans Pacific Partnership critic Jane Kelsey is calling Labour to account, saying today will be the litmus test for whether Labour intends to keep its word on future deals.

It would also be a test for the resolve of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters to achieve one of New Zealand First's flagship policies.

``We need to hear from the Government what it plans to do,'' Prof Kelsey said.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meeting is due to be held today.

Associate Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor travelled to Manila, Philippines, last week to participate in the RCEP preparatory ministerial meeting, on the margins of the East Asia Summit.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is attending the East Asia Summit but Messrs Peters and O'Connor are representing New Zealand at RCEP meeting.

Mr O'Connor said the RCEP was important for New Zealand. If it was successfully completed, the agreement would cover 56%, or $40billion, of New Zealand's total goods and services exports and seven out of the country's top 10 export markets.

According to Prof Kelsey, the leaked RCEP investment text showed New Zealand had not taken a position on ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement). She understood New Zealand had since supported its inclusion.

``Contrary to what Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker claims, Labour capitulated in the revised Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement by accepting special rules that protect foreign investors and their right to enforce them through ISDS.''

Prof Kelsey said the new Government had begun to spin its achievements regarding the TPP while omitting some inconvenient details.

Some of what the Prime Minister referred to as potential protections, such as a three-year review hypothetically allowing removal of ISDS and protection screening under the Overseas Investment Office from ISDS, were not among the agreed suspensions released by trade ministers in Vietnam.

``If there is more, we need to see it so we can evaluate the Government's claims. I am inherently suspicious given the spin Trade Minister David Parker has put on other provisions.''

Mr Parker said in a statement the outcome of the TPP negotiations satisfied the five conditions the Government had laid out for a revised deal.

It achieved meaningful gains in market access for farmers and supported the more than 620,000 New Zealanders whose jobs depended on exports.

A reciprocal agreement had been reached with Australia, which was the source of 80% of overseas investment from the new group, that ISDS clauses would not apply between the two countries.

``We continue to seek similar agreements with the other countries in this new agreement. In addition, the scope to make ISDS claims has also been narrowed,'' he said.

During the weekend the TPP was renamed the Comprehensive Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope welcomed the progress made on the new agreement and said a successful conclusion to negotiations would mean new income and jobs in New Zealand.

The value and volume of New Zealand exports increased enormously in countries where a free trade agreement was reached. Every extra $1billion in exports equated to 8500 new jobs.

New Zealand had had signed only eight trade agreements with 16 countries, far fewer than many other comparable countries, he said.

The CPTPP would greatly increase the number of trade agreements, cutting tariffs in more places and increasing diversity in markets, which would help insulate New Zealand against future trade barriers.

``New Zealand exports are typically smaller than their global competitors and have further to go to get their goods to market. They currently find it hard to compete in markets where we don't have trade agreements.''

The Green Party would continue to oppose the CPTPP and would vote against it in Parliament.

National has assured Labour of its support, meaning the legislation will pass.




I think it will be interesting to say the lest .........abit of backing out I think. will come...