Ardern in talks with NZ First over TPP

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has downplayed the Greens’ decision to vote against the new Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal - while hinting Labour’s other coalition partner New Zealand First could yet follow their lead.

The 11 countries involved in what is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) announced at the Apec summit in Vietnam last week they had reached agreement on “the core elements” of a deal.

Ardern and Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker said the Government had managed to win concessions in a number of areas, including the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses that allow foreign investors to sue governments.

However, in a written statement released on Monday (NZT) the Greens trade spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said the ISDS changes did not go far enough to address the party’s concerns, so it would oppose the deal.

“We support fair trade that brings real benefit to all New Zealanders – not trade deals that put our rights and our Government’s ability to legislate to protect our people and our environment at risk.”

Ghahraman said ISDS clauses were a particular threat to the environment, with 85 percent of cases brought by corporations “focused on exploiting the environment and natural resources”.

The party’s opposition to the CPTPP would not affect its relationship with Labour but was a sign the parties could “respectfully disagree”, she said.

“This will from time to time be an outcome of a government that does bring together multiple parties - from time to time, we will take different positions.”

Speaking to media in Manila, Ardern said she was “well aware” of the Greens’ position before she left New Zealand.

“I’ve had that conversation with James Shaw: before I left New Zealand I knew that would likely be their position, and as I say we discussed it, we were fully informed.

“This will from time to time be an outcome of a government that does bring together multiple parties - from time to time, we will take different positions.”

With National pledging to support the CPTPP from opposition, any new legislation has the numbers to pass, although Ardern said it was too early to talk about that aspect.

“Obviously we still have some issues to work through...once we have that final deal then we’ll be in a position to talk to other parties about their support.”

New Zealand First has been an outspoken critic of the deal in the past, with party leader and current Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters describing it “as an international corporate protection racket, covering a wide range of laws which challenged our national sovereignty, giving legal preference in a court not of New Zealand’s choosing”.

Ardern said she had been speaking to Peters about his party’s position, but a final decision would have to wait until the deal was signed.

While her Cabinet ministers were expected to follow collective responsibility for government decisions, that did not preclude an “agree to disagree” policy in specific areas of concern.

“We're not in the position yet to know whether or not that’s something that New Zealand First will want to do, because they haven’t got a final deal for them to consider.”

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