Secrecy is a part of all trade negotiations and New Zealanders can trust the government to get a good deal for them, Trade Minister Tim Groser told TV One’s Q+A programme.
He was commenting on the progress of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which he said could be finalised in the first six months of 2015.
TPP talks began in 2005.
“On issues that are quite legitimate concern to New Zealanders, like you know does TPP mean we're going to have to pay more for our subsidised drugs? I mean that’s a completely legitimate concern to New Zealand, and I've made a variety of statements on that matter. But when we're able to look at the final deal I'm extremely confident that the government will be able to convey to New Zealanders that there is no cause for concern whatsoever here and the deal there provides all the protection New Zealanders would expect a responsible New Zealand government to do for them. But until that is there you know there's all these leaked earlier proposals, some of which are ridiculously extreme proposals. We've made a lot of progress there, but let's have the debate when we're looking at something that’s real, not some version of reality," Mr Groser said.
“You can't have it both ways. If you want to be in the tent you respect that confidentiality and New Zealand will certainly be doing that. This is really only a transitional problem. At the end of the day if there is a deal, if there is a deal, all of this, all the fine detail will be out in the political debate and people can then look at a balanced view, not on the basis of assumptions on what things might be, but on the basis of the deal that is there. It's always been like that in trade negotiations, and I'm increasingly confident of the direction of travel on some of these sensitive issues. “
The US mid-term elections in the United States could prove positive for the deal, the Trade Minister said.
“What has happened in this election is the Republicans have their position strengthened at the upper end of Republican expectations. They’ve now got control of both Houses, Congress and the Senate, and it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. What is already clear from public comments, let alone any more considered private conversations which I and Mr McCully and the Prime Minister will obviously hope to have in the next few days, is that trade has been identified immediately as something that could provide the basis of some bipartisan movement forward. Now I'll wait and see, but that certainly sounds promising from a New Zealand perspective.”
Once the TPP is finalised, President Barack Obama will have to get it ratified by the Senate. Republicans are more free pro-trade, broadly speaking, but in areas from primary industries to creative industries to pharmaceuticals, they frequently lean protectionist when their home state's interests are affected.
FTA with Russia still possible
Mr Groser said he hasn’t given up on a free trade agreement with Russia, after a deal had to be abandoned due to political events earlier this year:
“The situation in Eastern Ukraine clearly is very very fragile . We would need to feel that the momentum was turned back in a more positive direction. This is the most disturbing thing to happen to security on the European continent for decades, and right now even though I'm, you know, the Trade Minister, I'm actually looking at this through a political lens not a commercial lens. But I'm hoping we will see some signs of rapprochement between the major western powers and Russia and we will have enough political space then to resume what has always been a very long term but very interesting commercial and strategic play by New Zealand.”
Watch Tim Groser's full Q+A interview here.
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