Jacinda Ardern won't rule out pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal - saying it's one of many issues about which she's happy to be called "bloody-minded".

The main concern for Labour was the TPP does not allow for Labour's policy of banning foreigners from buying New Zealand land.

Ardern sat down for a special PM Job Interview at NZME headquarters today, fielding questions from a panel including Heather du Plessis-Allan, Audrey Young, Liam Dann and Toby Manhire.

Shortly beforehand and across town in Pukekohe Prime Minister Bill English and Trade Minister Todd McClay launched trade policy. That included a pledge to complete or start seven free-trade deals, the TPP 11 included.

Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Doug Sherring
Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Doug Sherring

A key date for the TPP 11 talks will be at the APEC conference in November. Asked if she could pull New Zealand out if other countries did not agree to a renegotiation, Ardern said the National Government should have already pushed for that to happen.

"To date we haven't seen any effort to put that on the table. Australia has negotiated these exemptions. Why can't we? The idea this is impossible - I do not buy."

Ardern said Labour had always been a party that championed trade, and saw it as critical to New Zealand - but not at any cost. The Labour leader was asked by Herald political editor Audrey Young if she was being bloody-minded, given it would be possible to effectively ban foreigners from buying property through a stamp duty.

"I'm happy to be accused of being bloody-minded when it comes to improving our export and trade conditions," Adern said. "Also bloody-minded when it comes to protecting New Zealanders' ability to get into a home. I don't think they are mutually exclusive. I'm broadly bloody-minded."

At National's trade policy launch, McClay contrasted his party's stance with Labour's opposition to the TPP.

The original TPP 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 the TPP in January.

Representatives 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.

"Our opponents want to stop and renegotiate the whole package. That would set the cause of New Zealand trade access back many years," McClay said. "National is the only party for voters serious about trade."


National pledged to seek free-trade agreements with the European Union, a post-Brexit United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay (Mercosur), and to seek to wrap-up negotiations with TPP 11, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru (the Pacific Alliance) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (Rcep) countries.

McClay said National will also seek to upgrade existing FTAs with China, Singapore and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and "push for greater access for Kiwi businesses" to India, Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in the Middle East.

Progress on getting an FTA over the line with the Gulf countries has stalled after fallout between Qatar and other council members.

New Zealand spent more than $11.5 million to fly almost 1000 sheep to Saudi Arabia and help set up a demonstration farm there in an effort to progress the Gulf States FTA. The farm is owned by businessman Sheikh Hamood Al Ali Khalaf, who was unhappy with the Government's handling of its ban on live sheep exports for slaughter.

In November last year Auditor-General Lyn Provost concluded the spending of public money on the farm was not corrupt but had "significant shortcomings".

Labour's trade spokesman David Parker said National had failed on the TPP and the Gulf States FTA.

"By downgrading the Gulf States agreement, which the Government in March told New Zealanders they were 'very optimistic the deal would be finalised this year', it looks like they've wasted $12 million on the dodgy Saudi sheep deal."

National said the new trade deals it will pursue will advance New Zealand's free-trade goods exports coverage from 53 per cent to 78 per cent, but Parker criticised it as merely a "wish list" and said National had not met previous promises to increase exports.