Pacific Rim nations sign giant trade deal amid protests

[AFP] AUKLAND, Feb 4: The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the biggest trade deals in history, was signed in New Zealand today as protestors demonstrated over fears for jobs and sovereignty.

The ambitious deal, promising the elimination of nearly all tariffs among the 12 member nations, aims to break down trade and investment barriers between countries accounting for about 40 per cent of the global economy.

While New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and US Trade Representative Mike Froman lauded the pact at the ceremonial signing in Auckland, thousands of protestors blocked roads outside.

“Today is a significant day, not only for New Zealand but for the other 11 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Key said.

However, protesters argue it will cost jobs and impact on sovereignty in Asia-Pacific states.

Australia’s Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the TPP would see the elimination of 98 per cent of tariffs among the 12 states.

Although the signing marks the end of the negotiating process, members still have two years to get the deal approved at home before it becomes legally binding.

“We will encourage all countries to complete their domestic ratification processes as quickly as possible,” Key said.

“TPP will provide much better access for goods and services to more than 800 million people across the TPP countries, which make up 36 per cent of global GDP.”

The agreement was signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

“Other countries have already signalled an interest in joining TPP,” Key said. “And this could lead to even greater regional economic integration.”

In a joint statement ministers representing the 12 countries said the TPP “will set a new standard for trade and investment in one of the world fastest growing and most dynamic regions.

“Our goal is to enhance shared prosperity, create jobs and promote sustainable economic development for all of our nations.”

Froman had earlier warned against any delay in endorsing the deal.
“After five years of negotiation, signing the TPP is an important milestone in our efforts to set high-standard rules of the road in the Asia-Pacific region and more generally, and to deliver an agreement that will benefit American workers, farmers and businesses,” he said.

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