New Zealand would benefit more than most countries from a concluded Trans Pacific Partnership deal, former Labour trade minister Phil Goff told the Herald last night.

"We have the least barriers and therefore we have the least we have to give away," he said. "Other countries have to give away much more.

"While there are all sorts of problems involved in this negotiation, you have to look at the wider picture and the wider picture is that each country will benefit from a successful conclusion to it but New Zealand will benefit more than most."

Mr Goff made his comments just before Trade Ministers from the 12 countries negotiating the TPP ended four days of intense talks in Singapore in a bid to resolve the toughest issues.


New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser is thought to have played a central role in the talks, having been a professional trade negotiator and diplomat before entering politics.

Mr Goff, who launched the TPP proposal when he was Trade Minister in the Labour Government, is facing resistance to the deal from unions affiliated to Labour, but the party has agreed to reserve its positionofficially.

The United States is leading the negotiations and President Barack Obama set the end of this year as an informal deadline by which to conclude the deal.

But few expect the deadline to be met.

Mr Goff said he thought it was more likely the deal would be concluded towards the end of March next year.

"I've never been in any trade negotiation yet that has beaten a deadline. More often they have missed a deadline and taken longer than they thought."

He said it was not a matter of American multinationals being able to get everything they wanted in talks, as much as they might imagine they could.

The US, including the Congress, had to accept there had to be significant compromise from all countries.


Mr Goff said opponents of the TPP were seeing the talks through their particular lens "and they are highlighting worst-case scenarios" and he was not criticising them.

"It's unlikely we will get to a worst- case scenario and if it was a worst- case scenario, it is unlikely that we would agree to it."

TPP in brief

• TPP Trade Ministers have just finished their first meeting in Singapore.

• Negotiations began in March 2010, after President Barack Obama endorsed George W. Bush's commitment to join.

• 12 countries are now negotiating: US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Japan.

The deal covers more than just market access and tariffs.