It would be a "massive lost opportunity" for the United States if it does not pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in November or December, John Key bluntly told a New York audience today.
He said it would be a loss not only for US consumers and businesses but also for the potential expansion of the deal to countries such as China, Indonesia and South Korea.
Presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton say they would renegotiate the deal among 12 countries.
President Barack Obama's so-called lame-duck period, after the presidential elections but before the winner is sworn in in January, is his last opportunity to get the deal through under his Administration.
"If TPP fails to get ratified during the lame-duck period, it will be a massive lost opportunity for the United States, both for their consumers and business but also for the geopolitics of the region," Key told about 80 members of the Council for Foreign Relations in New York.
"Because in the end if that vacuum isn't filled by the United States, it will be filled by somebody else."
"We think the United States is in a pivotal point because if it is not passed in the lame-duck period, will it ever be passed?
"When people say the deal can be modified and the parties can come back to the table, that relies on those 12 countries having the will to do that.
"There's a deal there. The deal is ready to be signed and in our view it is massively in the United States' interests to sign that deal."
Trade dominated Key's first full day on the sidelines of UN leaders' week. Pending deals were top of the agenda in talks with Saudi Arabia's Deputy Prime Minister, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the European Union Council president Donald Tusk and is expected to feature large in his talks today with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Key emerged from the Saudi talks saying it was possible the stalled deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Saudi Arabia is a leading member, could be back on.
Trade Minister Todd McClay will be heading to Riyadh next week for talks.
Key told reporters he believed the agri hub set up by New Zealand had helped.
"It helps. It's another sign of things that we are doing," he told reporters.
"I made the point to them that it's a great example of how we are investing in their market, how we are developing capability in their market, because they genuinely do want to build their own capability in agriculture, but given their climatic conditions, they are never going to be able to produce the amount of food that these countries need."
Labour leader Andrew Little said the real question was what the attempts to secure a trade agreement with Saudi Arabia had cost New Zealand.
"We know that $4m has been to frankly shut up a difficult character in Saudi Arabia.
So far we have seen flying sheep, dead sheep, a farm in the middle of the desert.
Last week when I was explaining this to some colleagues and counterparts from other countries, apart from them rolling around on the floor laughing, it was actually difficult to describe this situation without myself thinking, how on earth did we get into this situation?"
He also disputed Key's comments that the US would lose influence if it did not push through the TPP. He said the US would remain influential player in Asia-Pacific whatever the fate of TPP and the best step was to renegotiate it.
"There are legitimate questions about the TPPA which have not been answered so far and I think ramming it through when there is so much public concern about it is not desirable for anybody."