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Trade delegates under pressure

Last updated 08:01 03/12/2012

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Exporters are being urged to have their say on TPP deal, report Catherine Harris and Tom Pullar-Strecker.

New Zealand's lead negotiator in the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal proposal is encouraging exporters to make their interests known to him, as the talks continue.

About 500 delegates from 11 countries will sit down to talks in Auckland today for the 15th round of TPP negotiations.

New to the table are Canada and Mexico, which between them represent $1 billion of two-way trade with New Zealand.

Lead negotiator for New Zealand, David Walker, said businesses that could benefit from the deal should feel free to talk to the negotiating team.

"We're interested to hear from any exporters, whether it be goods exporters, services exporters, on any particular interest they might have. Input from any stakeholders is always welcome."

Agriculture, generally a sticking point in any trade talks, was one of New Zealand's key interests, but the proposal was very comprehensive.

"We have a lot of interests in the negotiation and there are many areas which are complex." The TPP would expand an existing free trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, which covers Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei.

Australia, Vietnam, Peru, the United States and Malaysia have all signalled official interest in joining the new trade bloc, followed by Canada and Mexico in June.

Several other countries are watching and Thailand is also expected to join up.

However, the talks have been criticised because of their secrecy and scope. Two of the especially contentious areas are intellectual property and pharmaceuticals.

Local commentators have expressed concerns that New Zealand might have to sacrifice freedoms such as the right to parallel import trademarked goods, and make concessions over Pharmac's bulk purchases of drugs and medical supplies.

But it is understood New Zealand does not expect to go into bat alone on these and other controversial aspects of the discussions.

Whatever their view, officials at this week's talks are under extra pressure to strike a deal after Prime Minister John Key and US President Barack Obama indicated they wanted the trade deal wrapped up within a year.

The Auckland round will conclude on December 12.

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- Waikato

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