UPDATED: TPP support high as deal signed in Auckland

TPP has been signed. With special audio feature.

UPDATED 2:00pm

Trade ministers from the 12 Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries have signed the negotiated text of the agreement in Auckland today.

Beginning at mid-morning, large demonstrations took place outside SkyCity Convention Centre, Aotea Square and scattered around the SkyCity complex. Police occupied key intersections and the entrance to the convention centre, barring protesters from entering the ceremony.

Inside the centre, the trade representatives of the 12 TPP member countries completed a signing of the text before holding a press conference. According to media present at the ceremony, the proceedings were not disrupted by the protests outside the centre.

After the signing ceremony took place, protesters migrated from the SkyCity complex towards Aotea Square in preparation for a march down Queen Street. Due to an apparently floundering police response and minimal police presence, the demonstrators numbering in the thousands blocked traffic on the central Auckland road for more than an hour.

Other arterial routes, such as Auckland’s Harbour Bridge, were also targets of strategic blocking from protest groups. However most gatherings were disbanded by authorities before any major disruption to traffic flows occurred.

The official statement from the signing ceremony, released by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), says the deal affirms the member nation’s shared objective of creating a platform that “promotes high-standards for broader economic integration” in the future.

“After more than five years of negotiations, we are honoured to be able to formalise our collective agreement of TPP which represents an historic achievement for the Asia-Pacific region,” USTR says.

“The signing of the agreement signals an important milestone and the beginning of the next phase for TPP. Our focus now turns to the completion of our respective domestic processes.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says in a statement the TPP is “overwhelmingly positive for New Zealand” and will provide better access for goods and services to more than 800 million people across Asia Pacific.

“TPP is our biggest-ever free trade deal and is estimated to boost our economy by at least $2.7 billion a year by 2030. That will help to diversify our economy and mean more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders,” he says.

“It is New Zealand’s first FTA relationship with five of the TPP countries, including the largest and third-largest economies in the world – the United States and Japan. Successive New Zealand Governments have been working to achieve this for 25 years.”

New Zealand trade minister Todd McClay said that would give the government time to talk to New Zealanders further about TPP's benefits and address some of their concerns.

"The Government will be running nation-wide roadshows for the public and business, to ensure New Zealand is ready to take advantage of new opportunities from the first day TPP enters into force", he says.

TPP protestors (Photo: Nevil Gibson)

TPP protestors (Photo: Nathan Smith)


TPP Protestors in SkyCity Auckland from National Business Review on Vimeo.

From Nathan Smith, National Business Review


EARLIERThe signing ceremony does not bring the trade deal into effect. It only finalises the text’s contents. Ratification requires each country to debate the deal in their parliaments and vote on it, which could take up to two years depending on the countries' assorted political structures.

The shape the agreement will take after moving through the New Zealand parliament is not clear. Some politicians and parties are already voicing opposition to the deal, while others are supporting it. The National government will hold a series of roadshows around the country to help businesses identify and plan for new export opportunities should the TPP come into force.

In the US, congressional approval faces opposition in both chambers. Before consideration, the Obama administration must send Congress an “implementing bill.” Most observers agree that the White House probably won’t send that legislation to Capitol Hill until mid-May at the earliest once the US International Trade Commission has finished its economic analysis.

UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas called on TPP governments not to sign the deal without reaffirming their human rights treaty obligations and their recent pledges to achieve  Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr de Zayas says the deal is “fundamentally flawed” and “should not be signed or ratified unless provision is made to guarantee the regulatory space of states.”

US trade representative Michael Froman will attend the signing of the trade deal on behalf of President Obama. Mr Froman will be in New Zealand from February 3 through February 6 and will hold bilateral meetings during the trip, according to USTR.

US President Barack Obama used his platform at January’s State of the Union address to domestic lawmakers to encourage support of the deal amongst member of Congress.

“With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region, we do. We want to show our strength in this new century? Approve this agreement, give us the tools to enforce it. It’s the right thing to do,” Obama says.

Aligning interests
Canada’s new government is still trying to find its feet after recent elections and feels ambivalent about the trade deal. International trade minister Chrystia Freeland says it is clear that “many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities” and that “many Canadians still have not made up their minds.

“Just as it is too soon to endorse the TPP, it is also too soon to close the door. Signing does not equal ratifying. Signing is simply a technical step in the process, allowing the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made,” she says.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called the deal “a gigantic foundation stone” for the economy that will deliver jobs and growth, while Australian trade minister Andrew Robb says the deal will deliver “substantial benefits for Australia” in the rapidly growing Asia Pacific.

“It is the biggest multilateral trade outcome for decades,” says Mr Turnbull.

“We will see big markets opening up for Australia whether it is in agriculture, or in services, or in manufacturing. This is the foundation for our future prosperity. Our children's jobs depend on us having access to these big and growing markets and this opens so many doors simultaneously and, at the same time, we have preserved our vital national interests.”

Japan will send a new trade minister to New Zealand to sign on Tokyo’s behalf after Japan’s economy minister – and key trade negotiator – Akira Amari resigned in January over allegations of corruption. Mr Amari is the fourth minister to resign from the current government.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping to have the TPP ratified by Japanese lawmakers during the current session of Parliament. However, the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is reportedly considering blocking moves by Mr Abe’s government to ratify the TPP during the current Diet session.

The DPJ has compiled a draft report on TPP issues, claiming  Japan’s call for the five key farm product categories – rice, wheat, beef and pork, sugar and dairy products – to be exempt from tariff elimination is not sufficiently reflected in the TPP agreement.

“We cannot say that sacred areas were secured,” the paper says.

Protests and relief
Last week, thousands of people gathered in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to protest the TPP after Malaysia’s Senate approved a motion to ratify the TPP. The opposition was greater in the bipartisan House of Representatives where the motion passed with 127 supporting and 84 against.

“There were three or four people who didn't agree but the majority did. This is the practice in the international community – nothing will be implemented until we ratify the agreement,” International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed told media after the vote.

“What's important is that we will discuss some issues raised in Malaysia such as the issues highlighted by the public, in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. I will discuss this with some of my friends in New Zealand to put forth some considerations about how we can handle this issue,” he says.

Chile’s minister of foreign affairs, Heraldo Munoz, says the deal was “highly satisfactory” and would allow far greater access to the markets of the other TPP signatory countries than Chile already has through free-trade agreements with them.

Peru, Chile and Mexico already have dozens of bilateral trade agreements but the TPP was a fight that has “taken us five years,” according to Peru’s trade minister Magali Silva.

“We are going to be part of the 12 economies that together handle 40% of the world’s GDP. The main benefit here is the accumulation of origin. It is like having the 12 countries acting like a factory,” Ms Silva told the Financial Times.

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto recently tweeted, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership will translate into greater opportunities for investment and well-paid jobs for Mexicans.”

RAW DATA: The Text of the Agreement can be found here.

The annexes of the agreement can be found here.

(With reporting from BusinessDesk)

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