New Zealand says Canada must get serious on Pacific trade pact

April 18
1:04 AM 2015

Canada must make a meaningful offer to open its markets under a Pacific trade pact now that the United States is moving ahead with a key piece of trade legislation, New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said on Friday.

Groser hailed the introduction of fast-track legislation in the U.S. Congress on Thursday and countries can now clear up remaining sticking points in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

"It's an enormous positive step forward and it opens the door now to the TPP endgame," Groser told Reuters of the bill to streamline the passage of trade deals through Congress.

The move cleared the way for Canada to engage on market access and open up a protected dairy industry which "looks like it belongs in the former Soviet Union."

"We expect Canada to ... now start to engage in a serious way. We can give them lots of flexibility in terms of timing, safeguards, and other transitional mechanisms to allow a politically realistic adjustment process, but now's the time for Canada to speak," he said.

It was "inconceivable" for Canada to drop out of the TPP, which will cover 40 percent of the world economy and stretch from Japan to Chile, he said.

Canada and Japan have been reluctant to put final offers on the table without assurances U.S. lawmakers will not pick apart agreements afterwards. The fast-track bill limits Congress to a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments.

Groser said it would be "enormously helpful" if Japan and the United States could reach a bilateral deal on auto and farm exports at a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama in late April.

For the U.S. Congress to approve the TPP this year, negotiations will need to be complete by mid-year.

As for fast track, Groser hoped Congress would consider and pass the bill expeditiously.

"Congressional professionals would never have introduced this bill if they were not reasonably confident that they had the numbers to pass it," he said.

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