Press Release – Professor Jane Kelsey
Media release: Professor Jane Kelsey Wednesday October 24, 2012 Obama casts TPP as Challenge to China – will Groser now walk away? Trade Minister Tim Groser stated unequivocally in February this year that New Zealand would pull out of the Trans-Pacific …Media release: Professor Jane Kelsey
Wednesday October 24, 2012
Obama casts TPP as Challenge to China – will Groser now walk away?
Trade Minister Tim Groser stated unequivocally in February this year that New Zealand would pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations if politicians in the United States used them as a vehicle to try to contain the rise of China.
‘If Tim Groser really meant that, he needs to walk away from the TPPA now, before New Zealand hosts the next round in Auckland in December’, said Professor Jane Kelsey, who monitors the negotiations.
‘In the past month both US presidential candidates have positioned the TPP at the centre of their strategy to neutralise China’s ascendancy in what they call the ‘Pacific’ region’, according to Professor Kelsey.
During the recent Leesburg round of TPP negotiations Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney reportedly complained that Obama has not been tough enough with China. Romney endorsed the TPP, which he described as a “dramatic geopolitical and economic bulwark against China.”
Barrack Obama took an equally aggressive position on China In yesterday’s presidential debate, stating “we believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power; that we are going to have a presence there.”
In a coded reference to the TPP he said “we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in the region. That’s the kind of leadership that we’ll continue to show.”
This follows repeated speeches from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year that positioned the TPP as the economic limb of a two-pronged US offensive dubbed ‘America’s Pacific Century’. The second limb was the reassignment of US military presence from Iraq and Afghanistan to strategic allies throughout the region.
Professor Kelsey said “it is unclear how the anti-China strategy is meant to work. All China needs to do is continue negotiating its own free trade and investment deals with other countries. The squeeze will come on those countries, not on China.”
The scene is already set with talks due to begin in December for an ASEAN-plus 6 arrangement that is being dubbed “the world’s biggest free trade deal”. It would bring together the ten ASEAN countries, four of whom are involved in the TPP,  with Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand – but not the US.
“New Zealand already faces the prospect of being piggy in the middle, with potentially conflicting rules and foreign policy pressures from agreements with China and the USA”, Professor Kelsey observed.
“Tim Groser is kidding himself if he thinks China will sit quietly by and allow us to play both sides. This is a high-risk game and we need to have an honest debate about its long-term implications for the country.”