Trade deal alive with new name
After a fraught 24 hours of talks, when a Canadian boycott of a crucial meeting threatened to scupper the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it appears to be back on track.
The so-called TPP-11 - renamed after the United States pulled out of the original 12-nation pact - is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the TransPacific Partnership (CPTPP). Canada is also back inside the tent.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made it clear that concessions won, particularly on controversial investor-state disputes settlement clauses, had cleared the way for New Zealand to sign.
‘‘This is not a perfect agreement but it is a damned sight better than what we had when we started,’ she said after the leaders’ retreat at the Apec summit in Da Nang, Vietnam. ‘‘It is not perfect, no free trade agreement is. But it’s a lot better than where we were three weeks ago.’’
Trade ministers, including New Zealand’s David Parker, issued a statement acknowledging agreement on the core elements of the CPTPP. They also released a list of ‘‘suspended issues’’, which were essentially those that had been important to the US.
They can now only be written back into the deal by negotiation - and only by consensus of all the parties - if the US seeks to rejoin, perhaps in the post-President Donald Trump era.
That, in theory, means New Zealand can prevent the suspended changes to the ISDS regime from re-entering the agreement.
‘‘If America comes in, it’s not an automatic lifting of those suspended provisions ... we worked hard to have lifted,’’ Ardern said.
The agreement would now be taken back to a select committee for the public and Parliament to assess it.
Ardern said New Zealand negotiators had worked hard on the ISDS clauses, which allow corporations to take legal action against host countries in special tribunals. They have been narrowed in three areas:
First, they no longer apply to investor screening, so decisions made under the Overseas Investment Act regime, administered by the Overseas Investment office, could not be challenged. Ardern said that was perhaps the most important change.
Second, anyone who takes up a contract with the government would no longer be able to sue through ISDS provisions but must instead use domestic procedures.
The third change related to financial services.
Also, a side letter with Australia has ruled out the use of ISDS provisions between the two countries, meaning ISDS does not apply to 80 per cent of foreign direct investment from TPP nations.
A ‘‘handful’’ of other countries have agreed in principle to ISDS side letters but Ardern said she could not disclose them yet.
Ardern said the ISDS provisions in the CPTPP were now similar to previous trade agreements New Zealand had signed, such as with China and Malaysia. New Zealand had wanted to go further, but she regarded the progress over the few weeks since she came to office as ‘‘a good outcome’’.
Other suspensions in the new CPTPP included copyright provisions. The US had achieved a ‘‘life plus 70 years’’ rule, but that would now drop back to the current ‘‘life plus 50 years’’.
Also, disclosure and administratives rules imposed on drug buying agency Pharmac would now be suspended.
The German Luftwaffe was represented by John Magels, aka Hans Rudel, flanked by Kevin and Adam Carberry.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, with Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker, at the Trans-Pacific Partnership meeting held on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.