Incoming NZ leader to push for TPP changes

SYDNEY • New Zealand's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has encountered an obstacle, with incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern insisting she will push for changes to the trade pact due to be finalised next month.

Ms Ardern told TVNZ's Q+A programme yesterday that she supported the TPP as well as lifting exports. However, she also insisted on proceeding with her Labour Party's plan to stop foreign speculation in the housing market, which would breach the draft agreement, reported Reuters.

The Prime Minister-elect said she would lobby for changes to the agreement at next month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam.

"Our view is that it will be possible to balance our desire to make sure that we provide housing... that's affordable, by easing demand and banning foreign speculators from buying existing homes, while meeting our trade goals," she said.

Ms Ardern told The New Zealand Herald that she may pull out of the TPP if other countries did not agree to a renegotiation, and said the National government should have already pushed for that to happen.

"To date we haven't seen any effort to put that on the table. Australia has negotiated these exemptions. Why can't we? The idea this is impossible - I do not buy."

All three parties in the new government, including New Zealand First and the Green Party which have previously opposed the TPP, are united on the goal to lift exports, Ms Ardern said, reported Reuters.

After President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP early this year, the group has 11 members.

New Zealand and Japan had led the way in, saying they remain committed to a deal to cut trade barriers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Prior to her election, Ms Ardern had promised to renegotiate the agreement, saying her government would want to be part of the TPP but that its "housing bottom line" was firm.

Asked by the New Zealand Herald if she was being bloody-minded, given it would be possible to effectively ban foreigners from buying property through a stamp duty, Ms Ardern said: "I'm happy to be accused of being bloody-minded when it comes to improving our export and trade conditions."

She added: "Also bloody-minded when it comes to protecting New Zealanders' ability to get into a home. I don't think they are mutually exclusive. I'm broadly bloody-minded."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Incoming NZ leader to push for TPP changes'. Print Edition | Subscribe