Heat goes on trade negotiations
The stakes have been raised for the 500 trade negotiators from 11 countries who will descend on Sky City early next month for the 15th round of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.
Not only will Canada and Mexico join the negotiations for the first time, chipping in another $1 billion in two-way trade into the pot from the point of view of New Zealand's negotiators. Extra heat has also gone on the officials to make progress after Prime Minister John Key and United States President Barack Obama signalled at a meeting in Phnom Penh on Tuesday that they wanted the trade deal wrapped up within a year.
The negotiating round starts on December 3 and will conclude on the 12th, but - any leaks aside - the success of the talks will be difficult to judge from outside the closed doors of the negotiating rooms.
The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry gave a "background briefing" on the Auckland round today.
Some businesses and commentators have expressed concern New Zealand may be called on to sacrifice intellectual property freedoms - including the right to parallel import trademarked goods direct from overseas - and make concessions over the bulk-buying of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies through Pharmac.
But it is understood New Zealand does not expect to go into bat alone on these and other controversial aspects of the discussions.
The negotiators will attempt to make progress on a total of about 25 different topics.
In addition to the negotiators themselves, another couple of hundred hangers-on are expected to travel to Auckland for the talks.