Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

PM John Key heads to Apec with USA or bust message on TPP

John Key and Barack Obama in the Blue Room at the White House earlier this year.
John Key and Barack Obama in the Blue Room at the White House earlier this year.

Prime Minister John Key will tell his fellow Trans Pacific Partnership leaders that a TPP without the United States is a busted flush from New Zealand's point of view.

Key will leave for the meeting of leaders from the 21 Apec economies in Peru today.

It will be US President Barack Obama's last international summit before US President-elect Donald Trump takes over in January.

Trump's opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership means much of the focus will be on a meeting of the leaders of the 12 TPP countries on the sidelines of Apec on Sunday.

Key said some of those leaders, including Peru's President, had already proposed going ahead with the TPP without the US and bringing in China and Russia instead.

"The thing is that from our perspective we don't have an FTA with the United States. That was the big prize for us, that and Japan. So even if they include China, for instance, there wouldn't be much in that for us given we have a comprehensive FTA with China which we are looking to upgrade."

That did not mean New Zealand would not stay in the TPP if that was the end result.

"I'm not saying we wouldn't do it, I'm just saying in so much as we are looking to broaden and deepen our access into other markets. The US remains very important and if not through this mechanism, then we'd have to ask what other options are available."

He said Trump was entitled to his perspective.

"Even if I disagree with it, I can't stop him doing that. But this is not a static environment. There are many moving parts here and too many countries that want to make progress. Some of them will be of the view that is either with or without the United States."

There is now no chance of the TPP passing in the US in Obama's lame-duck period, but Key said he expected Obama would reaffirm his belief that the United States should be part of it. He had not completely given up hope, saying Trump would also be told it was important to maintain economic power in Asia Pacific.

China's President Xi Jinping is expected to use the Apec meeting to vigorously promote the China-led Asia Pacific trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

New Zealand is one of 16 countries in that. Key said if the US did put the brakes on the TPP it would leave a void for others to fill.

"RCEP certainly could get fast tracked because it would suit the trade perspective but also because of the geopolitics of China and others proving they can do that at a time the US can't."

While at the Apec summit, Key is expected to meet with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chile President Michelle Bachelet as well as Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

He also expected to get a chance to catch up with Obama and China's President Xi Jinping at events.

Key cancelled a visit to Argentina on the way to Peru because of the earthquake last Sunday night. He decided to go ahead with the Apec visit this weekend because it was a short trip and the initial response was in hand.

He said he would use his 'intervention' during the Apec leaders' retreat to thank the countries which had offered support for the earthquake recovery and update them. He said a number of leaders had rung to offer support.

Warships from Australia, Canada and the United States are in Kaikoura and Japan has surveillance aircraft helping survey the quake area.

He had not heard directly from China but was not certain whether officials had.

- NZ Herald

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