Talks to sign off on the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal have sensationally collapsed in the final stages, after Canada was a no-show at a meeting of leaders to finalise an agreement.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the talks have been postponed indefinitely, with no clear idea of why it is Canada chose to withdraw so late in the piece.
Earlier on Friday, Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker told media attending the Apec summit in Vietnam the TPP was “in the wind”, due to concerns from an unnamed country - believed to be the host.
However, those issues had reportedly been resolved and ministers were believed to have come to terms on an agreement for their leaders to ratify.
That changed when the Canadian delegation did not show up to the leaders’ meeting, leading to the postponement of talks.
“It is true that Canada did not attend that meeting and those talks have now been postponed,” Ardern said.
“We have no update on when they are likely to reconvene, but it is clear that one of the partners in TPP-11 has withdrawn at this point from the negotiations, at least that is what we seem to be left with the impression of.”
The Prime Minister said she could not say definitely whether or not Canada had withdrawn, given the country’s absence from the meeting and lack of explanation.
“The position we have at the moment is that the talks have been postponed. I cannot give you a clear indication of Canada’s final position because they weren’t there to convey that to us.”
New Zealand had made “good progress” on issues it was concerned about, such as the ISDS clauses, and had wanted to reach a conclusion on Friday.
Parker said Canada had raised concerns about the deal on Thursday night, but they appeared to have been resolved before the country’s no-show.
“Last night, there was no distance between the parties.”
Asked whether the failure to reach a conclusion would prove terminal for the TPP, Ardern said it was too early to say but it was unclear where negotiations now sat.