Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser left for Apec in Hawaii yesterday saying that the hard work on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is yet to be done.
He reiterated his assurance that Pharmac was not in jeopardy, saying there was no support in New Zealand or the United States for getting rid of it where they also have similar bulk-drug buying agencies.
"We know that at the sub-federal level, they've got Pharmacs: they call them by other names.
"We will stamp our little tiny feet and dig our little toes into the ground or whatever metaphor you want but we're not going to get rid of Pharmac by one way or another,'' he told the Herald before leaving.
President Barack Obama is expected to announce a broad framework at the weekend agreed to by nine countries: New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Brunei, Peru, the United States, Australia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
Trade and Foreign Ministers meet ahead of the Apec leaders summit at the weekend, which Prime Minister John Key is having to skip for the election campaign.
Mr Groser said he expected there would be"a partial agreement" at Hawaii.
Negotiators so far had tackled only the "low-hanging fruit."
"We haven't got down to the tough stuff," he said, such as agriculture access and intellectual property.
"We're going to get some tough asks on IP - I understand that but we're up for that," he said.
But cognisant of the difficult political management issues for the United States and a presidential election next year, Mr Groser has issued an invitation to US counterpart Ron Kirk to start the hard issues whenever the US deems it is ready to do so.
The negotiation was "not that hard" for Australia and New Zealand because they had no deeply protected sectors any more.
But the United States faced tough political management problems. However Mr Groser did not necessarily accept the conventional wisdom that the United States would put off the hard part of TPP negotiations next year because of the presidential election.
"It may well be that the Americans want to demonstrate in difficult economic times that the United States is capable of taking some tough decisions. I can't call it."
Mr Groser there had been no political negotiating so far on the agreement and the discussion at Apec would be a"political positioning."
He thought it would be a "very intriguing meeting" not least of which was because of what was happening in the Eurozone.
President Obama and several other Apec leaders would be coming from the G20 meeting in Cannes and that would still be fresh in their minds.