TPP – on a midnight train to Georgia

TPP negotiators meet in the unlikely place of Atlanta this week in what some believe may be the last attempt to conclude these long drawn out negotiations. New Zealand has a lot at stake – access for dairy products to the highly protected and subsidised markets of the United States, Japan and Canada gets the most attention, but better trade and investment conditions for the other 75 percent of our exports and integration in an area representing 40% of global GDP are no less significant.

TPP was at the outset styled as an opportunity to craft a “high quality, ambitious and comprehensive” agreement. Yet the protectionist and anti-competitive forces, which are alive and well in some of the world’s largest economies, might yet succeed in ensuring a sub-optimal outcome. Although New Zealand played a key role in getting TPP underway in the first place, we simply don’t call all the shots in this complex negotiation. Trade Minister Groser has been open in admitting that success is not guaranteed at Atlanta.

Those opposed to TPP claim it will have all manner of negative effects on New Zealand, but the debate has been hopelessly one-sided in the absence of a completed agreement. Once an outcome is secured, hopefully in Atlanta or possibly at the APEC meetings in Manila in mid November, a properly informed debate can take place. New Zealanders can have their say in the Select Committee process which follows transmission of the final text to Parliament. MPs will get to vote on implementing legislation without which TPP cannot come into force.

The great baseball player and part time philosopher Yogi Berra left us last week aged 92. One of his great sayings was “it ain’t over till it’s over”. Never a truer word was said in relation to TPP.

This post was prepared by Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director, NZ International Business Forum.