Prime Minister John Key has given a guarded view of New Zealand's chance of striking the "high quality" deal it has always sought in the 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment negotiations, saying that "at least it will be the very best we can do."
International reports suggest a final ministerial meeting will be held from Sept. 26 in Atlanta, Georgia, to try to conclude the TPP talks, ahead of next week's congregation of global leaders in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, where Key says he will putting pressure to conclude TPP high on his agenda.
Asked at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference today whether New Zealand would walk away from a new Asia- Pacific area trade pact for lack of a strong enough deal on dairy market access, Key said New Zealand was still "a long way from being in the best place we could on dairy."
"In the end, we will still hopefully land in the right place. At least it will be the very best we can do."
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New Zealand government rhetoric has until recently stressed unwillingness to sign up to anything other than a "high quality" TPP deal, which would include substantial dismantling of barriers to trade in dairy products, especially in three large, protected markets: the US, Canada, and Japan, none of which have been willing to give ground as they face strong domestic dairy lobbies that fear export competition.
A leading TPP opponent, Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey, said in a statement late last week that while there appeared to be progress on the contentious issue of automobile trade protectionism - a key issue between Japan and the US - there was little sign of progress on two other key issues: patent extensions for so-called biologic drugs and dairy market access.
"In contrast to autos, there has been no noise about dairy at all," Kelsey said. "This lends support to the view expressed to me by informed people in other countries that autos is the big issue and once that is settled dairy is not expected to delay a final agreement.
"Put another way, (International Trade Minister Tim) Groser is expected to swallow the rat, rather than hold up the deal, and wear the flack at home by saying New Zealand couldn't afford not to be part of the TPPA," she said.