WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s trade minister said Thursday he believes there’s an odds-on chance that a group of 11 Pacific nations including Japan and Australia will sign a free-trade deal, despite the U.S. pulling out.
Todd McClay said the remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are committed to completing a deal quickly and with only small changes. He announced that the New Zealand government had approved a mandate for the country to push ahead with negotiations.
“We think it’s important to economic growth, and we are signalling how committed we are as a government to it,” McClay said. “We now expect a decision to be put before TPP leaders in November of this year.”
McClay said beef exporters are facing new tariffs of 50 per cent on frozen beef they sell to Japan, a rate that would fall to 9 per cent under the trade deal. He said the deal is getting plenty of support among the 11 nations, which met last month in Japan for talks.
“It’s my expectation that the deal is now more likely to happen than not,” he said.
But it still faces many hurdles, including in New Zealand. The opposition Labour Party says that if it wins power when elections are held next month, it will renegotiate some of the provisions.
Labour lawmaker David Parker said one of the biggest problems with the deal is that foreign buyers could purchase homes in New Zealand without any restrictions. He said Australia managed to negotiate an exemption and New Zealand needs to do the same.
The 11 countries will need to restructure the deal, which effectively required the U.S. to participate under its original provisions. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration helped craft the deal but President Donald Trump campaigned against it and withdrew the U.S. from it immediately after taking office in January.