Govt defends modest gains as TPP limps back to life

Published: Sun 12 Nov 2017 10:53 AM
Govt defends modest gains as TPP limps back to life
By Pattrick Smellie in Da Nang
Nov. 12 (BusinessDesk) - The government is defending its support for an amended version of the TPP Pacific Rim trade and investment pact, saying it has achieved substantial progress on all five of the areas that Labour campaigned on changing.
Most significantly, it emerged that New Zealand will now be able to amend its foreign investment rules without fear of triggering dispute clauses. That detail came in a statement issued by the 11 leaders of countries still involved in the renamed Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also predicted that a three year review provision built into the new agreement would eventually see contentious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses further eroded or abandoned.
“It will be another chance to challenge their existence. My take from these negotiations is that this is the dying days of ISDS,” she said. The new government has said it will not sign future trade deals that include ISDS clauses, which are losing support globally.
However, the agreement itself did not advance as far as its strongest advocates had hoped in the meetings that coincided with the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, in Da Nang, Viet Nam.
Expectations that leaders would sign a revised TPP deal on Friday were dashed when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to show for a meeting with his 10 TPP counterparts, briefly throwing into doubt whether there would be progress at all.
By Saturday morning, a “settled text” had been agreed, but that included four areas of ongoing contention that will need to be resolved before signing can occur and the agreement can proceed to “enter into force” on a date that has yet to be agreed.
It appears a trade ministers’ meeting is likely in Japan before the end of the year to try to progress the four areas: carve-outs for subsidies to sustain local culture, labour standards and state-owned enterprises and coal production. The issues are important to CPTPP members Canada, Viet Nam, Malaysia, and Brunei respectively.
The latest agreement does suspend clauses that were inserted at the US’s insistence, before Donald Trump withdrew the country from the agreement in January. Some suspensions at least temporarily strengthen protections for New Zealand interests. In particular, suspending new restrictions on pharmaceutical and biologic patents will further bolster protections in the original TPP agreement for the drug-buying agency Pharmac, and US attempts to extend copyright to 70 years beyond death are on hold.
Even if the US wanted to rejoin the grouping, which all other signatories hope will happen, it would have to negotiate for return of the suspended clauses, said Ardern.
In a statement, Trade Minister David Parker said the government had protected the five things Labour had campaigned on as requirements before supporting TPP.
These were:
meaningful market access for New Zealand agricultural exports, with new preferential access to the Japanese, Canadian, Mexican and Peruvian markets;
upholding the unique status of the Treaty of Waitangi;
preserving better rights to regulate in the public interest than the original TPP deal;
bolstering Pharmac protections; and
maintaining the ability to control the sale of New Zealand homes to non-resident investors.
Anticipating a backlash from parts of its political base that opposed the TPP completely, and particularly over ISDS, Ardern said: "This is not a perfect agreement but it is a damn sight better than what we had when we started.”
She confirmed the revised CPTPP agreement would require fresh legislation. The National Party promised last week to support Labour in the passage of any law required by a new agreement, guaranteeing it a large parliamentary majority even if Labour's partners in government, the New Zealand First and Green parties, were to oppose it.
Independent, Trustworthy New Zealand Business News
The Wellington-based BusinessDesk team led by former Bloomberg Asian top editor Jonathan Underhill and Qantas Award-winning journalist and commentator Pattrick Smellie provides a daily news feed for a serious business audience.
Contact BusinessDesk

Next in Business, Science, and Tech

Mice successfully eradicated from Antipodes Island
By: New Zealand Government
Roadmap to harness $1.5 billion transport tech sector
By: New Zealand Government
GDP rises on strength in services
By: Statistics New Zealand
More measures to protect Hector’s dolphins
By: New Zealand Government
Helping international innovators connect
By: New Zealand Government
Current account deficit widens to $2.0 billion
By: Statistics New Zealand
Lyttelton port workers on strike from midnight
By: Rail And Maritime Transport Union
"Licensed to krill" - Greenpeace exposes Antarctic fishing
By: Greenpeace
Predator Free success on Antipodes Island
By: New Zealand National Party
Mouse blitz team leaves for Antipodes
By: Department of Conservation
Antipodes expedition leaves today
By: Joint Press Release
Hackathon Winner Puts Focus on Improving RL Driver Skills
Hackathon focus on restricted licence drivers skills
NZTA calls for hi-tech ideas to make roads safer
Intelligent transport systems could earn $1.5 billion a year
By: BusinessNZ
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILEWe're in BETA! Send Feedback © Scoop Media