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PM: TPP not only trade game in town

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/01/2017 Sean Martin
<p>Bill English</p> © Bloomberg

Bill English

While the Trans Pacific Partnership is finished in its current form, Prime Minister Bill English says it's not the only trade game in town for New Zealand.

The official withdrawal of the US by President Donald Trump on Tuesday confirmed the 12-nation agreement won't proceed in its current form but has opened up the possibility of bilateral agreements.

Mr English says New Zealand is open to bilateral deal discussions and will send Trade Minister Todd McClay to the US to hold those talks.

But he expects New Zealand to be low on the list of trade priorities, and he's not confident discussions will be fruitful.

Mr Trump has indicated he wants to include a 30-day exit clause and admitted any agreement would ensure the US came out on top.

Those terms are unlikely to appeal to New Zealand.

"If you ask me today I think it's a low chance of that happening in a form that we find satisfactory but we wouldn't want to rule it out any more than we'd want to rule out other versions of progress on free trade with TPP or not," Mr English said on Tuesday.

"Bear in mind it's not the only game in town for us."

Mr English travelled to Europe earlier this month to discuss a free trade agreement with the European Union, while he expects a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom to also be on the cards in the coming years.

Also on Mr McClay's agenda in the coming months will be the attempts that are likely to be made by other TPP countries to save the agreement and implement it without the US.

"A number of other TPP countries have expressed a strong commitment to it and I expect ministers to meet over the next few months to consider possible next steps," Mr English said.

Mr Trump has made no secret of his dislike of multinational trade agreements.

His press secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday they forced the US to negotiate with the "lowest common negotiator".

"So we're basically on-par with some very small [countries] who're getting access to an amazing market; to the United States," Mr Spicer said.

While he didn't specifically name New Zealand the country is in the bottom three nations in the agreement in terms of GDP.

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