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No clowning around in government's first TPP roadshow

No clowning around in government's first TPP roadshow

By Fiona Rotherham

March 7 (BusinessDesk) - The first of the government's 16 roadshows and huis around the country explaining detail on the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement has kicked off in Auckland with four protesters dressed as clowns being ousted from a meeting while fewer than a dozen demonstrated outside the meeting venue.

Despite tight security, the protesters tried to disrupt presentations from Trade Minister Todd McClay and chief negotiator David Walker but were eventually asked to leave, to the approval of the mainly business audience.

McClay spoke of the benefits of what is New Zealand's largest-ever trade deal including that it's estimated to add at least $2.7 billion a year to the country's gross domestic product starting in 2030 while costs incurred will amount to between $75 million to $80 million a year from implementation,

The 12 parties involved in the treaty include five of New Zealand's top trading partners for services and goods and half its top 10 goods export destinations, but excludes the largest, China.

Tariffs will be eliminated on 95 percent of New Zealand's trade with the new TPP partners. While the government didn't get all it wanted on agriculture, one of the most beneficial tariff reductions is those on meat exports to Japan dropping to 9 percent from around 40 percent today.

McClay said it had taken more than seven years to negotiate the agreement and there was potential to add new partners over time and continue negotiations that would cover all of the Asia Pacific region.

Walker tackled the detail of the TPP, including concerns around intellectual property protection, the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism, and how the government drug buying agency Pharmac would be affected by the increased protection for biologicals.

He said it was important for businesses to understand what was in the TPP and equally as important to know what was not.

Walker said the first trade deal negotiated in 2000 with Singapore covered less than half a percent of GDP, while the P4 deal a few years later with Chile, Brunei and Singapore covered 0.83 percent and the current TPP covers 36 percent of world GDP.

The investor state dispute settlement mechanism had attracted a lot of public comment but applies only to the TPP's investment provisions and included a provision allowing the government to rule out ISDS challenges over tobacco control measures. "The NZ government is looking to exercise that provision," he said.

One of the biggest estimated costs is $55 million a year over the long term for extending the copyright term from life plus 50 to 70 years and eliminating tariffs on imports will cost a further up to $20 million in lost government revenue.

Long time TPP opponent Jane Kelsey questioned the provisions to biological pharmaceuticals and what would effectively mean a "blowing out of Pharmac's budget" for key drugs like the anti-cancer treatment Keytruda.

Walker said New Zealand would continue to provide five years of data protection for small molecule pharmaceuticals and for biologics it will be required to provide a further five years of data protection together with further effective market protection through other measures, taking into account local market circumstances.

The aim of the roadshows is to encourage local businesses to understand what new opportunities are now open to them with the NZ Winegrowers talking about its plans under TPP. NZ Winegrower's Philip Gregan said the industry had a goal of growing exports to $2 billion by 2020 and TPP was about how the industry goes beyond $2 billion to a much higher level of exports.

The 12 signatories to the trade deal have two years to ratify it and it only comes into force if six sign it though they have to include the US and Japan.

McClay said he was confident the US would sign the deal before Obama leaves office because too much had already been invested politically into the deal.


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