Labour has confirmed its conditional support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership - saying it wants the controversial free trade agreement if conditions are met, including allowing its proposed ban on house purchases by foreigners.

The TPP is bitterly opposed by many on the left who want New Zealand's involvement to be completely scrapped, but after a meeting of the Labour caucus this week the party has announced its support.

"Labour is pro free trade, as evidenced by the China Free Trade Agreement we signed in 2008. But by negotiating the TPP in complete secrecy, the Government is creating a level of public unease," leader Andrew Little said.

Labour said it can only back the agreement if it does not undermine New Zealand's sovereignty, and has outlined five conditions for its support:
• The protection of Pharmac.
• The Government being able to regulate "in the public interest" and not be sued by corporations.
• The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld.
• Farmers get meaningful gains in tariff reductions and market access.
• New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers.


Labour's policy is that non-resident foreign buyers should be blocked from the New Zealand housing market, and it has recently released controversial analysis of leaked real estate agent data it says points to a large number of offshore Chinese buyers in Auckland.

Its foreign buyers policy would be allowed under the China FTA, which the party signed in 2008.

However, the South Korea FTA National agreed this year contained additional commitments around free investment, and those will eventually need to be included in the Chinese agreement.

While some believe the Korean agreement contains enough flexibility to allow the regulation of overseas purchases of land and housing, Labour's trade spokesman David Parker said it could create the risk of South Korean claims.

Neither China or South Korea is involved in TPP negotiations, but Mr Parker said Labour's understanding was that the aspect of the South Korean agreement that it viewed as problematic was in the TPP text.

Mr Parker said the TPP, which has been negotiated since March 2010, includes countries representing 40 per cent of world GDP, but its impacts were not known or able to be accurately debated.

"Everyone knows they can't disclose the actual text. But when New Zealanders are marching in the streets in their thousands...the Government has a duty, in my opinion, to properly inform New Zealanders what is happening."

The deal includes intellectual property rights, foreign investment rules, labour and environment standards, procurement policies, state-owned enterprises and competition, and disputes procedures.


Asked if some MPs pushed for Labour to oppose the TPP entirely, Mr Parker said he would not reveal what was said in caucus, "but that letter [outlining Labour's conditional support] is a caucus letter".

"We have a pretty long history supporting fair and free trade, including the likes of the China FTA. So we have not changed from that position."