Trade Minister to promote case to host secretariat for trade pact during signing ceremony next month

Trade Minister Todd McClay will promote New Zealand's case to host a proposed secretariat for the Trans-Pacific Partnership when trade ministers from 12 Asia Pacific nations are expected to gather in Auckland to sign the deal next month.

McClay confirmed to the Herald that there are some considerable "sensitivities" around the secretariat proposal. The proposal is expected to be one of the topics for discussion at a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministerial meeting before the formal signing of the ground-breaking regional agreement, which covers some of the world's most robust economies and 40 per cent of global GDP.

In McClay's view there is a strong need for a "co-ordinating role" for TPP. His preference is for an Auckland-based secretariat.

But the TPP members - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam - have to first decide on whether a secretariat should be established.


Second, if the trade ministers do decide to proceed, there is likely to be competition from city states like Singapore to host a secretariat.

The Government has yet to drum up support from Auckland Council for the pact. While business lobbies are keen for Auckland to host a TPP secretariat, there has been frank opposition to the trade deal from some councillors.

McClay - who is holidaying in the United States - expects to release a national interest analysis (NIA) report on the deal on his return to New Zealand.

The NIA will go to a parliamentary select committee for scrutiny.

"We are not looking to rush it," McClay said. "I expect it could take all year to get through the processes."

The public will have an opportunity to comment and be heard at the select committee hearings.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will also lead business briefings around New Zealand so businesses are made aware of the new commercial opportunities from the deal.

Although McClay is unable to publicly confirm whether the signing will take place on February 4 - the date has been well signalled by several TPP members.

Reliable sources have confirmed to the Herald that February 4 emerged as the preferred signing date after Prime Minister John Key offered New Zealand as the host while he was at the Apec leaders meeting in the Philippines.

McClay expects to be able to confirm a signing date "in the next week or so" after it is clear all 12 nations will be in a position to proceed.

President Barack Obama may even use his State of the Union address today to try to drum up congressional support for the deal to be ratified.

The International Trade Commission is also due to hold a three-day hearing on the agreement in Washington this week.

The TPP will come into force after two years if at least six of the original signatories, which account for at least 85 per cent of the combined 2013 GDP of the original 12 countries, have ratified the agreement.