Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

TPP negotiations close, but 'progress' made - Groser

Tim Groser still believes there's hope the TPP deal can be sealed in the first half of next year, despite it failing to meet this year's deadline. Photo / NZPA
Tim Groser still believes there's hope the TPP deal can be sealed in the first half of next year, despite it failing to meet this year's deadline. Photo / NZPA

Trade Minister Tim Groser is optimistic a Pacific-wide trade deal will be struck in the first half of next year, despite negotiations for the Trade Pacific Partnership coming to an unsuccessful close overnight.

Speaking from host country Singapore, Mr Groser told Radio New Zealand "tremendous progress'' had been made between delegates of the 12 negotiating countries, which include US, Australia, Japan and Malaysia.

"I think we've got momentum and I think that momentum is accelerating,'' he said.

"This has been a very complicated exercise, we're making tremendous progress. We're likely to be meeting again ... in a few weeks.''

Mr Groser deflected criticisms the trade negotiations could result in more expensive medicines for New Zealanders.

"There are clear red lines around health policy, particularly around Pharmac. There are red lines we've drawn around intellectual property rights. We'll require some adjustments but nothing that will cost New Zealand too much,'' he told RNZ.

"I can give you a categorical assurance that New Zealanders will not be paying higher prices for their pharmaceuticals as a consequence of TPP [Trade Pacific Partnership].''

Former Labour trade minister Phil Goff, who was the architect of the TPP proposal, said last night agreement between the partners would benefit New Zealand more than most countries involved.

"We have the least barriers and therefore we have the least we have to give away,'' he said.

"Other countries have to give away much more.''

Auckland University Law Professor Jane Kelsey, who was in Singapore observing the TPP meeting, was critical of the negotiating process and outcome.

"Their decision to convene another meeting of ministers in just one month's time signals a serious intent to maintain political pressure and conclude the agreement early in 2014.''

The December to January period was the ideal time to minimise public, media and political scrutiny with many of the countries involved on Christmas holiday, she said.

Professor Kelsey also said disagreement around intellectual property rights was one of the major issues left over from the trade talks.

New Zealand, Australia and Canada appear to have surrendered to an as-yet-undisclosed version of US-based demands on intellectual property that they have consistently deemed unacceptable, she said.

"The US behaviour is not surprising. What is shocking is that other countries would make major concessions without a firm US market access offer and knowing that Obama cannot guarantee to deliver any deal through the Congress,'' Professor Kelsey said.

- NZ Herald

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