Tim Groser shared a rare insight into the unique partnership that New Zealand forged with the United States on the TPP at a recent forum.

"If there was ever a project in the economic sphere that exemplifies an effective partnership between United States hard power and New Zealand soft power it is TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

"It is not by chance that New Zealand is the official repository, or administrator, of TPP.

"The first block was laid down by New Zealand proposing in 1998 to Singapore a free trade agreement [FTA] as a possible bridge to what we called P5, or Pacific Five. However, the central idea was not to create a bilateral deal just between two small and already open economies, but as a first step towards a wider, regional FTA that we called P5, or Pacific Five. Crucially, we identified the United States as its engine room representing North America with the other members being from the Pacific, Asia and Latin America - in other words, the four geographical corners of the Apec footprint. If we could pull that off, we figured at the time, we would simply see where it went from there in the wider Apec context.

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"There was no timetable or 'road-map' of the type beloved by generations of Geneva negotiators who invest such unwarranted faith in the false precision of such procedural devices.

"As the great 19th century Prussian general von Moltke famously said, 'No battle plan survives the first encounter with the enemy.' A more effective strategy, I think, is to maintain a core idea and then improvise around it as the political facts on the ground, and therefore opportunities, change. Frankly, I don't know any other way to negotiate in the real world."