PM to brief Obama on IS and free trade

JOHN KEY: "Either we grab it with both hands or TPP will be on a slower track", says Key as the window of Barack Obama's ...
HAGEN HOPKINS/Getty Images

JOHN KEY: "Either we grab it with both hands or TPP will be on a slower track", says Key as the window of Barack Obama's US presidency closes.

Prime Minister John Key is expecting to brief United States President Barack Obama on New Zealand's contribution to the fight against Islamic State and to discuss free trade.

But while the pair would have a one-on-one chat at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) meeting in Beijing, no formal talks between the two are planned.

Obama will later today chair a meeting of the 12 leaders, including Key, involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade talks, on the sidelines of the APEC meeting.

JOHN KEY: The prime minister speaking at the CEO breakfast at APEC in Beijing.
VERNON SMALL/Fairfax NZ

JOHN KEY: The prime minister speaking at the CEO breakfast at APEC in Beijing.

Key said today that there were strong indications the countries in the long-running talks were keen to make progress, and the clock was ticking for Obama to achieve that during his presidency.

Leaders at last year's APEC meeting in Bali had also expressed confidence in a deal and expected it to be finalised before the middle of this year, but progress has been glacially slow since then.

Key said talks had been complicated by two new entrants, Japan and Canada.

"It's not a case of now or never it's a case of now or a long way into the future," he said before the TPP "stock-take" meeting.

He said Obama needed to secure trade promotion authority - known as fast track - from Congress to push the deal through. That might be more likely now the Republicans control the US Senate after recent elections, because trade was one area where co-operation between Republicans and Democrats was easier.

"It won't be lost on him that we have this window of opportunity," Key said.

"Either we grab it with both hands or TPP will be on a slower track. It doesn't mean it can't happen but it's less likely to be competed under his watch."

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Key said Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe was facing slow growth in his country and that argued for the TPP.

For Japan to continue to be strong it needed greater integration and access to international markets, he said.

Japan had a strong domestic lobby against free trade but it was possible a compensation deal could be done to ease the pain of transition.

Key said New Zealanders who marched against the TPP at the weekend did so without knowing what the deal was.

"They would be protesting irrelevant of the situation," he said.

"They are fundamentally opposed to free trade."

 - Stuff

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