The New Zealand International Business Forum (NZIBF) welcomed news negotiators meeting in Tokyo concluded talks for the renamed Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Four issues remained after negotiations in Da Nang, Vietnam, in November: carve-outs for subsidies to sustain local culture, labour standards and state-owned enterprises and coal production, issues which are important to CPTPP members Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei respectively. Those have now been resolved following a further two days of negotiations.
Trade minister David Parker is currently on a flight that won't land until the evening, but a spokesman confirmed negotiations have concluded and the member countries - a group which also includes Australia, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and Singapore - are working towards signing on March 8 in Chile. The deal was re-named after the US pulled out in January 2017 and the remaining members renewed talks to keep it alive.
Stephen Jacobi, executive director of NZIBF, said the deal "comes not a moment too soon for New Zealand in Japan where our trade interests have suffered because we lack the sort of trade arrangements that our competitors enjoy."
"Once CPTPP enters into force we will have new FTAs with Japan, Canada, Mexico and Peru. There is also interest from a range of other economies in joining CPTPP. All this means new opportunities for New Zealand to grow trade and jobs," he said.
Labour campaigned on five requirements before supporting TPP. These were: meaningful market access for New Zealand agricultural exports, with new preferential access to the Japanese, Canadian, Mexican and Peruvian markets; upholding the unique status of the Treaty of Waitangi; preserving better rights to regulate in the public interest than the original TPP deal; bolstering Pharmac protections; and maintaining the ability to control the sale of New Zealand homes to non-resident investors.
Jacobi said the deal reached in Tokyo preserves the original access package of TPP and suspends a number of other elements including intellectual property (copyright and patents) as well as aspects of the contentious investor state dispute settlement (ISDS).
National's trade spokesperson Todd McLay also welcomed the news, saying the deal would "bring the Asia-Pacific region closer together and show that free trade is still possible, and important, in a time of increasing protectionism around the world."
The successful conclusion comes a day after US President Donald Trump took a step towards a more protectionist trade policy with new tariffs announced on imports of washing machines and solar panels.
CPTPP members Canada and Mexico will soon enter the latest round of trade negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has said he'll withdraw from if he can't get a favourable deal.
When negotiations were concluded in Da Nang last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern predicted that a three-year review provision built into the new agreement would eventually see ISDS clauses eroded or abandoned. The government has said it will not sign future trade deals that include ISDS clauses, which are losing support globally.
Lobby group ExportNZ's executive director Catherine Beard said the resolution of Canada's objections to the CPTPP trade deal meant the agreement could be signed soon, news which has drawn criticism from long-running critic Jane Kelsey, a law professor at Auckland University.
Kelsey said the new deal reportedly introduces new cultural protections for Canada as well as rules of origin for automobiles, neither of which were outstanding items.
"These additions appear to be through side letters, rather than changes to the actual text," Kelsey said. "Japanese officials have said the details won't be released until after the revised agreement is signed.
Before an APEC meeting last year, Ardern and Parker raised the prospect of securing side letters to create exceptions from ISDS provisions for New Zealand, in the same way the special economic relationship with Australia is acknowledged, but weren't successful.
The government has to push through its legislation preventing foreign purchasers from buying existing New Zealand houses before ratifying CPTPP. The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill is currently in front of the Finance and Expenditure select committee, which is due to report by Feb. 20.