December Trade Update
More information is emerging on what went wrong in Da Nang at the negotiations on what was known as TPP. Canada, for reasons unknown, turned up to the meeting without a mandate to conclude negotiations. To its surprise all the issues it raised were agreed to. The Trade Minister Champagne seemed as pleased as other Ministers when agreement was reached only to find that his Prime Minister wanted to stall. This led to the theatrics including failure to attend a crucial meeting of leaders.
It seems that Canadian industry is worried about finalizing details of TPP before the final shape (if any) of the NAFTA re-negotiation is known. As this is unlikely until March, Canada seems to be suggesting April as a target date for finalizing the newly named Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on the Trans Pacific Partnership. Other members such as New Zealand are pushing for an earlier completion (February).
Ministers and negotiators are still confident that CPTPP will be finalized and eventually ratified, but entry into force may now be mid 2019 or early 2020.
The new New Zealand Government’s concerns about aspects of the negotiation appear to have been accommodated. Key to this has been the decision to classify existing houses as “sensitive land” under the OIO regulations. Legislation to bring this change into effect has already been introduced into Parliament and must be passed before CPTPP is signed.
20 provisions from the original TPP have been suspended until such time as the US seeks to re-join the agreement. Several of these suspensions relate to investor state dispute settlement.
The Prime Minister and Minister Parker deserve congratulations for the pragmatism they have shown on this difficult matter.
WTO Ministers met in Argentina last week. New Zealand was hopeful that progress might be achieved on fish subsidies, agriculture subsidies and on fossil fuel subsidies. Alas Agreements proved impossible and any progress was but minor. The good news is that the United States has remained a member of the WTO.
China FTA Upgrade
A further meeting with China has been held on upgrading the FTA. Some progress is reported in the facilitation field. But a breakthrough on the dairy safeguard issue seems some way away.
The Singapore Government has been angered by the decision to seek a re-negotiation of the 2001 Closer Economic Partnership (FTA) with New Zealand to allow for changes to investment rules. Singapore thinks that it should be treated in the same way as Australia (exemption from the new rules). This will be a test for the new Government.
The EU has yet to agree a mandate for the negotiation with New Zealand. This has delayed the commencement of negotiations. A launch of this negotiation is still expected in the first half of 2018.