David Parker signs CPTPP

Healthcare workers taking part in the protest march against the TPPA in Wellington on 15 August 2015. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

The CPTPP was signed in Santiago, Chile overnight.

Minister for Trade David Parker signed on behalf of New Zealand. The CPTPP is the successor agreement to the TPP, signed by the previous government in Auckland in 2016.

That agreement fell through after President Donald Trump was elected in the United States and pulled his country out of the agreement. The TPP might have ended there, but for the efforts of Japan and other Pacific Rim countries, which resurrected the deal and forged ahead.

Labour is keen to talk up the differences between the TPP, which it opposed, and the CPTPP, which it has now signed. The CPTPP emerged after talks on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Vietnam at the end of last year, in which the eleven remaining TPP countries decided how to forge on ahead without the United States. See the following article from Sam Sachdeva, who was at the talks.

The departure of the US provided the opportunity for the remaining countries to suspend unpopular parts of the agreement they had agreed to largely under American pressure. Negotiators managed to score some victories on Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses, and on extended patents for biologic medicines.

Parker said in a statement on Friday morning that “side letters” with the same treaty-level status as the CPTPP had been signed to exclude compulsory ISDS between New Zealand and five countries in the agreement. The countries are Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam, and Australia.

Exporters have so far been keen to talk up the deal.

"For the first time, New Zealand will gain preferential access to Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, with immediate kiwifruit tariff reductions worth $26 million,” said Mike Chapman, Chief Executive of Horticulture New Zealand.

"It better links us to four of New Zealand’s top 10 trading partners in Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, which account for 30% of New Zealand goods that are exported."

The agreement is still opposed by the Green Party and other voices who say it places the rights of corporations above citizens and their concerns about climate change and public health.

Dr Erik Monasterio, Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Otago’s Christchurch School of Medicine, called for an independent assessment of the agreement’s impact on climate change and health.

In an article in the New Zealand Medical Journal, Monasterio and his co-authors Oliver Hailes, Dr Rhys Jones, Associate Professor David Menkes and Dr Joshua Freeman argue that the Government’s ambition to align the economy with the urgency of climate change will be undermined by signing the treaty.

“Ironically, the Government’s ambition in this regard would be seriously undercut by signing a treaty that underwrites the economic status quo and creates strong legal headwinds for essential regulatory action."

The benefits of the CPTPP seem relatively modest compared with the TPP. The National Interest Assessment (NIA) for the TPP said it would contribute “at least” an additional one percent increase to GDP at full implementation, worth $2.7 billion. The NIA for the CPTPP estimates a boost of between 0.3-1 percent ($1.2b-4b). Again, see this article from Sam Sachdeva.

Labour and New Zealand First support the agreement, but the Green party opposes it, which means the Government will need National's support to pass any legislation necessary for the agreement, which National has agreed to give.