An unnamed Asian member of the so-called TPP-11 has thrown a spanner in the works of 11th-hour negotiations on the future of the controversial Pacific Rim trade and investment deal.
Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker told New Zealand media early local time that there had been "an unusual turn of events" at the trade ministers' meeting in Da Nang last night.
The ministers believed they had reached an agreement at around 10pm and there was "celebratory clapping", only for an official of an unnamed nation to dispute that a settlement had been reached.
The issue arose in checking details of text changes agreed to the agreement.
Parker would not name the country but said it was not New Zealand and not Canada, which has been sending signals it is reluctant to be rushed into an agreement.
Vietnam, the host country for the APEC leaders' summit where the TPP-11 talks are occurring, and Malaysia are both known to have been resistant to concluding an 11-member deal because both are making major concessions on labour and environmental standards and trade which were most valuable when the US was in the TPP tent.
US president Donald Trump withdrew his country from the TPP as his first act upon election, but the remaining 11, led by Japan, have sought to keep the deal alive.
Parker declined to discuss the outstanding sticking point, but said it was of importance to New Zealand, suggesting the issue may relate to market access for agricultural access, which is the primary value of the deal for New Zealand exporters but sensitive for most other TPP members.
There were suggestions overnight of irritation that news of the consensus was leaking ahead of a TPP-11 leaders' meeting this afternoon local time. Leaders' thunder had effectively been stolen by the early leaks.
Significantly, Parker gave the strongest indication yet New Zealand is ready to sign the TPP-11 deal, despite getting less than the new Labour-led government wanted in terms of watering down investor-state dispute settlement provisions.
New Zealand had "improved" its position, he said.
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