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Fran O'Sullivan: English's TPP play with Australia

Bill English is meeting the Australian Prime Minister this weekend. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Bill English is meeting the Australian Prime Minister this weekend. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister Bill English has cited "naïve Kiwi optimism" as a driving factor in a New Zealand-led campaign to keep the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) alive.

English's effort to keep the TPP in play will be centre-stage when he meets Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Queenstown tomorrow.

"One particular area we will be focused on this weekend starting when PM Malcolm Turnbull turns up from Australia is trade," English told a BusinessNZ gathering this week. "The US has pulled out of TPP and we are going to see if we can work with others to create a coalition to proceed with it even if the US isn't in it. "

The Prime Minister spelt out that there were still benefits available to the other eleven TPP member nations even if they are not as large as would have been the case if President Donald Trump hadn't pulled the US out of TPP.

"Rather than sit round worrying about the instability you see around the world and some of the turning inwards we would rather set out with a bit of naïve Kiwi optimism and see if we can influence the world that is going to support your businesses." English told the business audience.

Keeping TPP alive will be no mean feat.

Japan has already ratified the TPP agreement through its legislative processes. But while New Zealand has passed TPP legislation, Australia has not taken that step.

Turnbull will have to navigate a tricky political environment to get TPP legislation through the Australian Senate.

English is understood to have taken the view that New Zealand has got nothing to lose by continuing to back TPP even if nothing is happening. He has deputed Trade Minister Todd McClay to build support among other TPP nations for a "TPP minus one" approach with other potential signatories like South Korea and Colombia also invited into the tent.

The Prime Ministers' talks are expected to canvas global issues - semaphore for the disruptive effect President Trump has had on international affairs.

There will be an emphasis on the "Pathway to Citizenship" approach Turnbull earlier put forward to ensure more New Zealanders can gain Australian citizenship.

Progress on the Single Economic Market will also be an agenda item.

The Prime Ministers' have invited the co-chairs of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum - Adrian Littlewood (NZ) and Ann Sherry (Australia) to join a business dialogue.

Other senior business people have also been invited - these include Mainfreight CEO Don Braid and Fletcher Building CEO Mark Adamson.

From Australia, David Thodey, chairman of the CSIRO and Brendan Lyon who is chief executive of Infrastructure Partners Australia will also attend.

- NZ Herald

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