Press Release – Professor Jane Kelsey
The distinctly lukewarm response of Trade Minister Tim Groser to Japan joining talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is well founded, says Professor Jane Kelsey, a critic of the negotiations.23 April 2013
Groser right to be lukewarm over Japan’s entry to TPPA
‘The distinctly lukewarm response of Trade Minister Tim Groser to Japan joining talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is well founded’, says Professor Jane Kelsey, a critic of the negotiations.
‘New Zealand can kiss goodbye to the quest for a ‘gold standard’ deal, let alone one completed before the end of the year’.
The ministers from the 11 countries negotiating the TPPA meeting on the margins of the APEC Trade Ministers in Surabaya, Indonesia on the weekend announced a consensus that Japan could join them at the table.
New Zealand was among the last to agree, with Australia, Canada and Peru. But once the US had publicly announced it had given the all clear to Japan, the others could hardly say no.
Groser set two preconditions: that Japan be committed to a ‘comprehensive, high-standard agreement’ and that it ‘could positively contribute to the momentum of the negotiation’.
‘Neither will happen’ Professor Kelsey predicted. ‘Groser was between a rock and a hard place.’
‘On one hand, New Zealand is desperate to gain credence for claims the TPPA could eventually incorporate all the major economic players in the Asia Pacific region. The current deal has been ridiculed as economically insignificant. This could give it some credibility, especially as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand don’t have a free trade agreement with Japan.’
On the other hand, Kelsey observed that New Zealand is a marginal player and big dairy concessions in Japan would cause even greater political fallout than in the US.
‘The most New Zealand could achieve is a thin wedge in the door, at a time we don’t lack for dairy export markets.’
‘Having Japan at the table will slow the process enormously. The political goal is still to sign a deal October 2013, although their wording became much vaguer last weekend. ‘
Whether Japan comes in for a July round, which looks unlikely, or in September, it will take several more meetings to get up to speed. The TPP Minister’s statement confirmed that the areas they are stuck on are major ones Japan will have a big interest in – intellectual property, state owned enterprises, environment and market access on agriculture, goods, services and investment.
‘Japan’s participation may turn into a poison chalice for the TPPA’.