Claire Trevet in Lima

The runway at Lima's airport was putting on a good impression of Spaghetti Junction when Prime Minister John Key landed yesterday.

He arrived in the Air Force Boeing 757 - no faulty switches this time - to find Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull's plane lined up alongside Indonesia President Joko Widodo's and Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte.

The media stand was packed - but it was not for Key's arrival. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tailgated Key into the airport, meaning Key's motorcade turned into a sprint to make way for Abe.


The planes, the motorcades, the welcome banners - all very Apec. But this was not the summit many thought they would be having when they met this morning.

It was only a month before last year's Apec meeting that the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries finally wound up seven years of negotiations and announced they had an agreement. A month before this year's meeting, Donald Trump was elected the next President of the United States. So instead of patting each other on the back today, those leaders were meeting to gaze bleakly at the Trump-sized hole blasted through the agreement.

Ironically, one of Key's first events in Lima was a panel discussion at a summit of CEOs on "redesigning trade". The TPP will certainly now be "redesigned".

The leaders are already assessing a trade agreement without the US. New Zealand will take part in that.

But New Zealand was one of the founding partners of the TPP and Key will not give up on the US so easily.

After arriving in Lima, he said there were three options for the TPP. One was to cut out the US and carry on as 11 countries. Another was to start from scratch.

The third - Key's preferred option - was a backflip by Trump, who had consistently campaigned on withdrawing from the TPP.

As evidence that this was possible, Key said Mitt Romney and Trump had been at odds during the campaign but were now talking.

Soldiers roll up the red carpet during a break in arrivals of leaders. Photo / AP
Soldiers roll up the red carpet during a break in arrivals of leaders. Photo / AP

The earthquakes prompted Key to abandon a planned trip to Argentina on the way to Peru, but Apec this year is too important to miss.

The demise of the TPP will mean an estimated $2.7 billion annual cost in lost opportunity for New Zealand. Although it would deliver benefits from giving New Zealand a free trade agreement with Japan, the US was the golden egg the Government was after.

A China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement does not deliver that - nor is it as free as New Zealand would like.

Still, whatever plight someone finds themselves in, there is always someone worse off.

Key found that person in his fellow panellist on the trade discussion at the CEO's Summit. It was Mexico's President Pena Nieto, for whom Trump means not only losing the TPP but gaining a wall.