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Did Groser sell out on TPPA with nothing on agriculture?

Did Key and Groser sell out on TPPA with nothing on agriculture?

According to the Wall Street Journal, trade minister Groser says the politicians have ‘informally “closed out” all but two major areas’ of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations.

Those areas are state-owned enterprises and investment, especially the right of foreign investors to sue governments directly.

‘Assuming the report is accurate, New Zealanders should be very worried’, according to Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey.

It means New Zealand has already made the big political trade-offs on the intellectual property chapter, including medicine patents and biologics, copyright and the Internet, and the transparency annex on Pharmac’s processes.

Professor Kelsey warned that ‘there should be no illusion that a solution on those and all other issues will be on anything other than US terms. Ironically, President Obama has even more negotiating leverage now that Republicans control both houses of the Congress and will have to approve the final deal.’

‘Obama does not have fast track authority, which means that Congress can demand further concessions. The US can then refuse to certify New Zealand’s compliance unless we have implemented what the US says was agreed, even if it is not in the text.’

‘Worse still, Key and Groser appear to have made these concessions without any substantial final offer on agriculture. Talks between the US and Japan on agriculture are not yet resolved. Japan reportedly offered New Zealand virtually nothing new at the Sydney ministerial meeting two weeks ago. So, there is every indication that New Zealand will be hung out to dry’.

Professor Kelsey notes that the messaging from Minister Groser has shifted significantly in the past week. He is no longer talking of a gold standard deal where Japan, the US and Canada remove all their barriers to agriculture exports.

Instead, the minister says New Zealand would not accept a deal that excludes dairy. That means a minimalist outcome is acceptable.

This would be consistent with comments reported by Politico from Stephen Jacobi, who is in China on behalf of the NZ International Business Forum. Jacobi talked of a possible ‘sub-optimal outcome’ in the TPPA and the need for a built in agenda to revisit what is left out.

‘If the Prime Minister and Minister Groser have indeed made those concessions, they need to tell New Zealanders exactly what they have agreed to and confess that do not expect to get substantial market access in return.’

The Minister should also clarify the contradictions between his reported comments and the TPPA ministers’ formal report to the leaders. That says they are still seeking solutions on remaining issues that include intellectual property and environment, as well as SOEs and investment. Private reports suggest that other issues are also unresolved.

‘Did the leaders decide in a one hour meeting, chaired by President Obama, on what even the ministers had been unable to agree?’


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