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Key proposes 'Trump Pacific Partnership'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/11/2016 Boris Jancic

While Prime Minister John Key's suggestion to rename the TPP the "Trump Pacific Partnership" might have been a joke, he says it reflects that the New Zealand government could be willing to give up a bit more to get the deal done.

Speaking to an audience of business and world leaders at the APEC summit in Lima, Peru on Saturday, Mr Key suggested the Trans-Pacific Partnership may yet be saved by making some "cosmetic" changes to the deal, joking a rename might be in order to change US President-elect Donald Trump's plans to withdraw.

"Trump Pacific Partnership for instance, that'd be fine," Mr Key said.

Afterwards, he told reporters the "flippant" comment reflected New Zealand's serious interest in keeping the US on board and a willingness to make further minor concessions.

"That would be preferable to not having them there," he said.

"But if it's about a full renegotiation, I don't think countries are that keen."

Salvaging the TPP has dominated Mr Key's 2016 APEC trip - in contrast to last year when leaders were hammering out the last steps to ratify the agreement.

Mr Key on Saturday formally met with two fellow TPP leaders on the sidelines: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Peru's Pedro Pablo Kuczynski - and also attended a meeting of all 12 TPP member countries' leaders, where discussion of continuing the deal without the US was on the cards.

After the TPP meeting - chaired by outgoing US President Barack Obama - Mr Key said multiple leaders had committed to keeping the agreement going and said the group planned to stay the course over the deal's two-year ratification period.

No one had suggested they would drop out, he said.

New Zealand is the first country to pass laws to ratify the deal and Japan and Mexico are expected to follow suit by the end of the year.

But during his APEC speech, Mr Key argued that in the face of Mr Trump's anti-trade rhetoric, world leaders needed to double-down on their negotiating effort - even if it meant going on without the US.

"We hope he's part of the program, but if he's not, we're going to carry on doing this," he said.

"In the end if the US is not there, that void has to be filled. And it'll be filled with China."

The prime minister told the APEC audience while he wanted the US to be part of the TPP, New Zealand would still get about two-thirds of the $NZ3 billion in benefits of the agreement if the super power pulled out, because of gains with Japan and Mexico.

The APEC summit brings together the leaders from 21 Pacific economies that make up 60 per cent of the world's GDP and about three quarters of New Zealand's export markets.

In other brief catch-ups during the day, Mr Key met with Japanese President Shinzo Abe, China's Xi Jinping, Mr Obama and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and said multiple leaders had expressed their condolences over Monday's 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

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