NZ happy with CPTPP - ready to sign it
By Richard Harman (author)
As far as New Zealand is concerned the CPTPP is ready to sign.
Trade Minister David Parker told Parliament yesterday that the text of the agreement had been “stabilised”.
He told POLITIK last night that what that meant was that the text was “complete”.
A paragraph in the official Ministerial statement from all 11 countries engaged in the talks issued on Sunday saying that the .Ministers tasked officials to continue their technical work, "including continuing their efforts toward finalising those items for which consensus has not yet been achieved" appears to have been a fudge designed to save Canada's face after it suddenly demanded changes to the agreement.
The only holdup now is the "technical work" --- four separate agreements involving Canada, Peru, Viet Nam and Brunei.
None affect New Zealand at all.
New Zealand needed no more negotiations and once the four agreements had been “fleshed out” and “that shouldn’t be problematic”, New Zealand should be in a position to sign the agreement.
The Government will now move quickly to legislate to ban sales of existing houses to non-permanent residents and will also legislate to tighten up controls on overseas investment and sales of rural land to foreigners.
Parker told Parliament yesterday that the only country that would have a problem with the ban on house sales would be Singapore because it conflicted with the free Trade Agreement between the two countries.
Otherwise it was able to be applied to all other CPTPP members (except Australia) which labour has always exempted because of the Closer Economic Relationship.
The legislation that implemented the previous TPP was a 12-part Act amending a whole series of other pieces of legislation.
With the withdrawal of the intellectual property sections and the withdrawal of the changes to Pharmac, that may simply need those sections removed.
That should be a relatively simple legislative process and means that the House may not be presented with a CPTPP Bill as such to vote on.
That may come as a relief to NZ First whose Leader, Winston Peters, is saying that he won’t commit to supporting the CPTPP until the final agreement is produced.
Parker has made it clear that the text that exists now is, in reality, the final agreement.
Peters reluctance looks like a smokescreen designed to stall for time while he balances his party’s pre-election strident condemnation of the TPP against the post-election realities of Government.
Otherwise, Parker is optimistic that he will get the support of the caucus and Party Council to move ahead.
Party President Nigel Haworth told POLITIK on Sunday that he had been kept constantly in the loop by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Parker so it would seem Parker has a basis for his confidence that he will get the party’s support.
Parker is obviously angry at the way the previous National Government and its officials appear to have misled Labour over some of their requests for provisions to be included in the TPP most notably the ban on the sale of existing houses to foreigners.
“We heard time and time again, when New Zealand was unfortunate enough to have that crowd on this side, that it couldn't be done,” he said.
“They told us that a ban on the foreign buyers of New Zealand homes would breach our existing free-trade agreements.
“Were they correct?
“No, they were not.
“They told us, and they told New Zealanders, that it couldn't be done in respect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) original agreement or the renegotiated, improved agreement.
“Were they right?
“No, they were wrong.”
He said the proposed ban on the sale of existing homes to foreign buyers was consistent with all of New Zealand’s other Free Trade agreements.
Parker --- who led Labour’s team on the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence Committee's examination of the TPP has always been critical of the way he believed the Government played politics with the TPP.
The Committee’s Report included a Minority dissenting view from Labour which said: “Had the Government through the five year negotiating period adopted a model of rigorous consultation with opposition parties, academia, unions, and business―as has been done in New Zealand in the past―a clearer and more informed negotiating mandate might have been gathered.
“Certainly, in those other TPPA countries where fuller and wider consultation was undertaken, public backlash to the agreement finally reached appears more muted. “