Trade update – November
November Trade Update
It has been a busy month for trade policy officials and Ministers over the region and around the world.
New Zealand hosted the APEC Ministerial and Economic Leaders’ Meetings and achieved as much as could be hoped for given the virtual format.
APEC’s position will usefully flow through to the WTO Ministerial meeting at the end of the month.
The US is beginning to engage again on trade policy. A managed trade deal has been completed with the EU over steel and aluminium and the US Trade Representative have been travelling in Asia.
There is some discussion in the US on plans to develop an “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework”. We don’t know much about this beyond the comment that “it will define our shared objectives around trade facilitation standards for the digital economy and technology, supply chain resiliency, decarbonization and clean energy, infrastructure, worker standards and other areas of shared interest”. We don’t think that people should see this as a willingness by the US to re-engage on CPTPP but one never knows what might become possible after the mid-term elections in November 2022.
An interesting final development with high relevance to trade policy in New Zealand was the release of the final Waitangi Tribunal report on the TPP Process. This deals with matters digital and economic, and has relevance to the two FTA negotiations currently underway – UK and EU.
With Agreement in Principle reached intense activity is going into the completion of this negotiation. Ideally it should be finalised and signed by the end of the year or very early 2022.
One issue of possible contention remains – the Indigenous Chapter and the Waitangi Tribunal process mentioned above has meant that negotiating
positions have not been able to be finalised until very recently. Where this Chapter will land is still very difficult to predict.
Negotiators took the opportunity of the suspension of Australia-EU negotiations to expand the time available for a series of long intersessional negotiations. These concluded recently with very good progress being achieved in most areas of the negotiation. Unfortunately there are differences remaining – patent terms for medicine and NZ expectations on market access for beef and dairy being obvious. Electronic commerce is another area that may be challenging (post the Waitangi Tribunal outcome).
It is not totally clear what will happen next but the French Presidency of EU beginning 1 January and French elections in April/May are a major complicating factor. Some suggest that it would be unwise to push for a political solution to the big remaining difficulties until after the French elections are out of the way.
Some technical negotiations are likely in the February/March period but it is probably wise to expect a few months of delay after that.