William Rolleston: TPP fresh chapter in a proud history

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The value of TPP to the Kiwi farmer is obvious, wiping $72 million of tariffs on meat exports alone. Photo / Alan Gibson
The value of TPP to the Kiwi farmer is obvious, wiping $72 million of tariffs on meat exports alone. Photo / Alan Gibson

Today marks a significant milestone for our economy and heralds great opportunity.

As a founding member, the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement introduces another chapter in our proud history as a trading nation.

We have certainly come a long way since the first shipment of refrigerated meat and butter left these shores on the Dunedin back in 1882.

For the primary sector the TPP confers boundless opportunities not only for agriculture but for future generations of New Zealanders and their prosperity.

Successive Governments have worked hard on securing this agreement and it is the culmination of nearly a decade of negotiations dating back to the signing of the P4 agreement in 2006.

It is a credit to our ministers and negotiators that New Zealand is part of such a significant deal which achieves positive outcomes for our exporters, considering the immense pressure and opposition they faced.

This agreement may not have delivered everything we desired but the scale and its importance to New Zealand is undoubtedly profound.

It includes five of our current top 10 trading partners and provides us with a trade agreement with the United States, Japan and Mexico, something that New Zealand would have been hard pressed to achieve through bilateral agreements.

Signing a deal with the US and Japan to align with our already established FTA with China secures free trade agreements with the world's three largest economies.

It's a significant achievement for a small trading nation which has not been subsidised while completely exposed to free market forces since the 1980s.

A key difference between other countries and New Zealand is 95 per cent of our agricultural production is exported. So without free trade agreements our efficient, unsubsidised New Zealand farmers face tariffs being added to their product making them less competitive in the marketplace, while also competing with products for which production has been subsidised.

Making deals such as this is crucial to our future competitiveness.

As a result of TPP we will be about $259 million annually better off as tariffs are lifted on 94 per cent of all exports.

The value to the Kiwi farmer is obvious, with this deal eliminating tariffs of $72 million on meat exports and $102 million on dairy exports, ensuring we retain our competitiveness and our products aren't disadvantaged by trade agreements between other nations.

Then there are benefits from the removal of non-tariff barriers and further growth potential once more favourable conditions are in place.

For a small country with a domestic market the size of Sydney this agreement promises great things, offering better and improved access to established and emerging markets.

The Asia Pacific region is the fastest growing in the world, accounts for 40 per cent of the global economy and is worth $28 billion of our trade.

Markets within it present opportunities for agriculture, especially when you consider the increasing affluence of these countries and consumer demand for dairy and red meat produce -- our nation's bread and butter.

If we are to continue flourishing as an agricultural exporter we need to be at the big table where those more powerful, wealthy nations preside.

The TPP positions us firmly at the table and if it had gone ahead without us we would have been left desperately isolated with our farmers facing an uncertain future.

Our capability and established reputation as a safe and efficient food producer of high quality should not be underestimated and we are cast in an enviable position as the planet grapples with future food demand.

Efficient food production is something which should be encouraged in our resource-limited world, not something that should be penalised with trade barriers.

Comprehensive trade agreements are crucial to achieving efficient food production, allowing market forces to work, and TPP provides an important step on this journey.

William Rolleston is national president of Federated Farmers.

- NZ Herald

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