The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal which will open up procurement across twelve countries, has been signed.
The trade agreement, which includes opening up procurement contracts between signatories Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam, was signed in Auckland, New Zealand which sparked public protests (pictured).
A joint statement from ministers of the signatory countries said that the TPP would set a new standard for trade and investment agreement in one of the world’s fastest growing regions which accounts for nearly 40% of global GDP.
“Our goal is to enhance shared prosperity, create jobs and promote sustainable economic development for all of our nations,” it said.
The agreement, which was published last November, means that signatories will have to treat suppliers in other countries equally in procurement processes, and has been signed after five years of negotiation.
The deal was welcomed by John Key, prime minister of New Zealand, which will take responsibility for some administrative functions as depositary for the TPP, as “overwhelmingly positive” for the country. He said it would see its economy boosted by at least $2.7bn (£1.2bn) a year by 2030.
“TPP will provide much better access for goods and services to more than 800 million people across the TPP countries, which make up 36 per cent of global GDP,” he said.
“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 US and Japan. Successive New Zealand governments have been working to achieve this for 25 years.
“As a country, we won’t get rich selling to ourselves. Instead, we need to build new global markets for our products and services, and TPP will help make that happen.
“I believe strongly that New Zealand’s future is in being open and connected to the rest of the world,” said Key.
However, the agreement has been criticised by the Labour Party leader Andrew Little, who said that it had caused a “deep divide”.
“Labour is a pro-free trade party but the TPP goes further than other agreements in undermining our democracy,” said Little. “We shouldn’t need a permission slip from foreign corporations to pass our own laws. That’s why Labour cannot support the agreement in its current form.
“Other countries such as Australia and Malaysia are able to ban foreigners from buying their homes. New Zealand cannot under this deal. That’s just not right.”
Jane Kelsey, law professor at the University of Auckland, expressed concerns about the TPP’s non-trade regulations on things including intellectual property and investment. She claimed that TPP chapters on state-owned enterprises, e-commerce and regulatory coherence constrained a future government’s regulatory sovereignty.
The New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement in 2008 included many non-trade rules that extended the constraints on governments that were introduced when the World Trade Organisation was created in 1995, Kelsey said.
"I was highly critical of those developments for that reason, but the TPPA makes the China deal pale into relative insignificance," she said.
Export NZ said business and export groups had written to the prime minister in support of the agreement, saying that the country’s major trade interests such as meat, horticulture, wine, seafood, forest products, dairy and manufactured goods, would all benefit from the reduction and/or elimination of tariffs and non tariff barriers especially in markets like Japan, the United States, Canada, Mexico and Peru.
A letter signed by the likes of NZ International Business Forum, Federated Farmers and the Meat Industry Association, said: “It is inconceivable that New Zealand would allow our access to markets to be impaired and our competitiveness to decline by standing outside such an important agreement when our competitors are part of it.”
It added that the agreement secured trade without the need for significant policy change in New Zealand.
“We are already a largely open market for foreign competition. We have robust laws for environmental and labour protection. TPP clearly provides for continuing favourable treatment for Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi, which is fully protected. Our state owned enterprises already operate along commercial lines. Our current policies in relation to intellectual property will also require little change, except in the area of copyright.
TPP is expected to come into force within two years of signature, once countries have completed their domestic legislative procedures.