July Trade Update
The negotiators have been busy but progress has been slow.
There has been considerable attention given to two possible expansions of CPTPP – the possibilities of the UK and China joining. The UK has clearly signalled interest in joining. China’s position is less clear but and increasing number of senior figures there are talking positively about CPTPP. Whether this is genuine interest or a tactic is yet to be determined.
There seems widespread support for the UK joining CPTPP. What is uncertain is whether they will formally apply sometime soon, or whether the UK will wait to apply for membership after it completes the negotiations underway with some existing CPTPP members. These negotiations include those with Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
China is far more complicated. Relations between at least two CPTPP members and China are under extreme strain – Canada and Australia. Japan may view any application with some suspicion also. Moreover clauses that the US inserted into the US Canada Mexico Agreement that has updated NAFTA mean that the US could, in effect, demand that Canada and Mexico chose between the US and China if they agreed to begin negotiations with China.
Earlier this week Trade Minister Parker indicated that the New Zealand Government would look at any Chinese application for membership with an open mind.
The quality of the EU’s goods offer to New Zealand remains a stumbling block in that bilateral negotiation. Progress has been made at a technical level in several areas but all the big ticket issues remain outstanding until differences over agriculture market access to the EU.
Negotiations are, in effect stalled, until at least after the New Zealand election and probably until early next year.
The ongoing negotiation between the EU and UK over a post Brexit agreement is possibly a complicating factor. The UK is also interested in access to the EU market for the same meat and dairy products as is New Zealand.
There appears zero chance of this negotiation being completed by the end of 2020.
The first round of negotiations been the UK and New Zealand have been held online. The talks went well but were very high level. There was no detailed discussion of the always difficult issue of agriculture market access. There is strong political momentum behind these talks at both ends so it would now seem possible that negotiations with the UK could be completed relatively fast – in trade policy terms 1 year is fast.
The two Governments are working on ways to sign the agreement on the FTA outcome online. Face to face meetings are currently impossible.