8 Dec 2013

Interest in joining TPP widens

9:37 am on 8 December 2013

A New Zealand free trade advocate says the closing stages of talks to create a Pacific-rim trade region are attracting the interest of countries outside the negotiations.

Trade ministers from New Zealand and 11 other nations began talks in Singapore on Saturday to try to reach agreement on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) before a self-imposed deadline of the end of the year.

TPP countries are attempting to finalise a trade deal by the end of the year.

TPP countries are attempting to finalise a trade deal by the end of the year. Photo: AFP

South Korea, which is the world's 15th largest economy, has signalled its intention to join the TPP talks, saying it would soon enter the negotiations.

International Business Forum chief executive Stephen Jacobi said he is pleased South Korea is keen but trying to add another country into the late stages of the talks would be complicated.

We've also got the conclusion of our own FTA (free trade agreement) with South Korea that we would like to finish first."

Mr Jacobi told Radio New Zealand's Insight programme if the TPP talks are successfully concluded soon, he expects more countries will be anxious to join, including China.

Meanwhile, the Government is being urged to release the text of any proposed trade deal before New Zealand signs up.

Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey, an opponent of the TPP, said the public have a right to know what the Government will give up before a deal is done. The Government argues the public will get their chance to have a say once an agreement has been finalised.

TPP is under negotiation by New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Canada, Mexico and Peru.