Fran O'Sullivan: China being kept in loop with TPP briefings

It would be a big step for powerhouse to accede to TPP agreement, with intellectual protection a thorny issue
Has China's recent experience of bilateral investment or free trade agreements prepared it for a major regional IP-related agreement such as the TPP? Photo / Getty
Has China's recent experience of bilateral investment or free trade agreements prepared it for a major regional IP-related agreement such as the TPP? Photo / Getty

China places trust in New Zealand's ability to play an even hand. China has already taken soundings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership - but this has yet to evolve into a push to become a member of the new Asia-Pacific deal.

NZ chief TPP negotiator David Walker has confirmed China has already received "technical briefings". It would be a big step for China to accede to the TPP.

There are contrasting views in China.

A significant grouping of officials and academics believe acceding to the TPP would help spur China in its drive to make its economy more efficient.

There is also a counter-argument that it will result in China playing into the US geo-political game.

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The thorny issue will be intellectual protection.

A China IPR report notes, China's recent experience of bilateral investment or free trade agreements has not prepared it for a major regional IP-related agreement such as the TPP.

"China's FTA experience has thus far focused on a limited range of issues, most of which are not 'core' IP," said the publication. "China is the second largest global economy with the largest IP system in the world, and with rapidly growing innovative sectors and global business models [including in e-commerce].

"China has already acceded to all the major treaties enumerated as required for TPP accession with the exception of UPOV '91 -- namely the Madrid Protocol, Budapest Treaty, Singapore Treaty, WCT. WPPT, as well as the Patent Cooperation Treaty."

See more TPP Coverage here

While Walker was not specific as to the technical details that have already been the subject of the China briefings, it is inevitable these will evolve as the chief negotiators for the 12 TPP members decide just how the accession protocol for TPP will work out in practice.

China places trust in New Zealand's ability to play an even hand.

This nation played a critical role in paving the way for China's accession to the World Trade Organisation.

Walker also has diplomatic form when it comes to high-level negotiations with China. He navigated New Zealand into the pivotal position to become the first developed nation to sign a bilateral free trade agreement with China.

It was a signature achievement. Clearly not just for Walker. But also for former Labour Trade Ministers Jim Sutton and Phil Goff who provided the political leadership.

The TPP will be signed this morning at Auckland's SkyCity.

Twelve ministers from the TPP members -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the US -- will take part. The deal then has to be ratified by each nation's respective legislatures.

Walker will remain integrally involved during the next phase as Trade Minister Todd McClay leads a round of briefings with the business community and iwi before the relevant legislation goes forward for parliamentary scrutiny.

Two weeks ago, the former US Trade Representative Mickey Kantor opened up on the China accession front with Yomiuri Shimbun.

Said Kantor: "Politically, it has enormous impact. We have got to be careful. What we have done, potentially, is send a signal to China that somehow we are trying to surround them, or cut them out. And China has reacted to that with their own trade agreements and with the infrastructure bank. In fact, the region needs China in the loop."

Indonesia and South Korea have already expressed concern that their companies will suffer trade disadvantage if their rivals from TPP nations score access to preferences denied them.

New Zealand will be the Depositary of the Agreement.

As depositary, New Zealand will be responsible for receiving and circulating specified notifications and requests made under TPP, as well as other responsibilities in helping to administer the agreement.

Chance missed for nod to key players

New Zealand has bypassed an opportunity to include a few Kiwi business stakeholders at this morning's ceremony where 11 visiting trade ministers will ink the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Each of the Trade Ministers is allowed to bring a delegation of 10 to the ceremony.

It's understood some delegations are including business stakeholders within their complement.

But Trade Minister Todd McClay decided not to include key players - even agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen who attended all the previous TPP ministerials with former Trade Minister Tim Groser.

McClay told the Herald he had not invited Groser or former Trade Minister Phil Goff either.

This is a pity, because these two former Trade Ministers, with assistance from Petersen, had played an integral role in getting the TPP to the point where a deal can be signed.

If the Government is intent on reinvoking a spirit of political bipartisanship - when it comes to prosecuting NZ's international economic agenda - it makes sense to fairly acknowledge those who have helped to get NZ to the table.

It may well have been security considerations which prompted McClay's stance.

The tight timetable many of the ministers are working to will also have played a part.

Last night Prime Minister John Key hosted a dinner for the ministers. Again security would have been tight.

The Government will be expecting business to get behind its plan for a future TPP secretariat based in Auckland.

If it wants full-blooded support it could acknowledge some of those who have stood up publicly and given their own leadership to the cause.

- NZ Herald

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Head of Business for NZME

Fran O'Sullivan has written a weekly column for the Business Herald since its inception in April 1997. In her early journalistic career she was a political journalist in Wellington and subsequently an investigative journalist who broke many major business stories including the first articles that led to the Winebox Inquiry in both NBR and the Sydney Morning Herald. She has specific expertise in relation to China where she has been a frequent visitor since the late 1990s. She is a former Editor of the National Business Review; has twice been awarded Qantas Journalist of the Year and is a multiple winner of the Westpac Financial Journalism Supreme Award.

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