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TPP conclusion in 2015 still 'challenging', says Power

TPP conclusion in 2015 still 'challenging', says new NZ-US Council chair

By Pattrick Smellie

Nov. 14 (BusinessDesk) - The current rush of optimism among supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement that the troubled talks will land a deal in the first half of next year is optimistic and "a big ask," says Simon Power, the newly appointed chair of the NZ-US Council, taking over the reins at the influential trade lobby group from long-serving former National Party Prime Minister Jim Bolger.

Power takes the reins at the council ahead of this weekend's G20 meeting of the world's 20 largest economies in Brisbane, Australia, this weekend, where New Zealand will be an invited participant.

The G20 follows two regional summits this week - APEC in Beijing and ASEM in Myanmar - with the US and China announcing a breakthrough set of initiatives that could set the world on course for a new global climate change deal in Paris late next year.

TPP progress has also been reported, although the New Zealand Herald reports that Trade Minister Tim Groser has downgraded his expectations from "optimistic" to "hopeful" amid speculation the agreement will not be a "high quality" deal and may not include agricultural, particularly dairy, products to the extent New Zealand has lobbied for.

"We don't know yet when the next round of negotiations will take place or when Ministers will meet again," Power told BusinessDesk.

Wrapping up a TPP deal in the first half of 2015, before the US 2016 presidential elections started consuming American political focus, "would require significant process."

"That's what leaders say recent meetings have achieved. We're keen to see progress, but that timeline looks challenging."

Recent optimism is predicated, in part, on the US Republican Party coming under pressure to make constructive use of its majority in the US Congress, following last week's mid-term elections, which saw a big swing to the GOP.

Auckland University law professor and TPP activist, Jane Kelsey, raised the prospect of a TPP without agriculture in a statement two days ago, following Wall Street Journal reports that the talks had "informally 'closed out'."

She accused the government of making major concessions on intellectual property chapters in the TPP "without any substantial final offer on agriculture."

Groser was no longer describing TPP as a "gold standard agreement", she said.

Also stepping up at the NZUS Council is the body's long-serving number two, Fiona Cooper Clarke, who takes over the executive directorship from Stephen Jacobi.

(BusinessDesk)

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