The government has approved a negotiating mandate for the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership 11, a trade deal it says could save New Zealand companies $222 million a year, says Trade Minister Todd McClay.
The original Trans-Pacific Partnership was signed in 2016 by 12 Pacific rim nations but had not entered into force. A spanner was thrown in the works when US President Donald Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum to withdraw the US from TPP in January. Representatives, however, from the 11 remaining members have met several times this year and agreed to launch a process to assess options to bring the so-called TPP 11 into force expeditiously.
"TPP 11 ministers have committed to moving forward with the agreement as quickly as possible," McClay said. In May, all countries agreed to present a proposal to TPP leaders by November this year, when they meet in Vietnam as part of the APEC leaders week.
McClay said New Zealand will be pushing for the minimal number of changes possible to the original TPP agreement, something that the remaining TPP 11 countries have agreed on, he added.
According to McClay, it is imperative New Zealand continues to show leadership along with Japan and Australia on TPP 11. He noted that Japan has just concluded a free trade agreement with the European Union that gives better access to European exporters than New Zealand currently has. Japan has also just announced it will apply a 50 per cent tariff on all frozen beef imports from countries it doesn't have an FTA with.
The TPP 11 "will mean tariffs on New Zealand beef exports to Japan will reduce from 50 per cent to 9 per cent. TPP 11 also removes all tariffs on wood products and means we can compete fairly in other goods and services exports," he said.
McClay said independent economic modelling shows TPP 11 could add $2.5 billion annually to New Zealand's economy and eliminate costly tariffs - saving companies $222m each year: "This is something that we cannot afford to turn our backs on."
The government approved the mandate to negotiate just ahead of next week's dissolution of parliament in the lead up to the September 23 election. The dissolution of parliament takes place every three years at the end of each parliamentary term. Parliament must be dissolved before the general election takes place. After the dissolution, all business before the House of Representatives and select committee lapses. When the next parliament meets the House can decide to reinstate this business and it can continue its progress through the House.
The opposition Labour Party's trade spokesman David Parker was not immediately available for comment. Labour officials have said, however, they would not support the TPP 11 unless sections dealing with investor-state disputes procedures were changed. Parker has also been quoted as saying in the media that he wants a ban on land sales to foreigners.