New Zealand is currently involved in two major international initiatives and either involve the Prime Minister who is still at the UN in New York.
Trade Minister Tim Groser is now at the TPP Ministerial talks in Atlanta and is expected to have a one on one meeting with Japan’s TPP Minister, Akira Amari, to try and resolve the question of dairy access for New Zealand to Japan.
Meanwhile defence Minister Gerry Brownlee is undertaking a series of top level meetings in China which underline the closeness of the NZ-China relationship which has now extended beyond trade to defence.
Mr Groser had been refusing to confirm whether he would go to Atlanta.
He said he would go only “if negotiators make sufficient progress resolving outstanding issues, including dairy market access, to warrant ministerial engagement.
But the fact that his office confirmed yesterday morning that he was going plus the reports from Japan about his meeting with Mr Amari suggest that things have now reached a potentially final point.
Officials met over the weekend and it’s thought dairy access was discussed then.
Mr Amari said he would hold bilateral talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman as well as New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser on the sidelines of the broad ministerial session to resolve remaining issues.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden agreed on Tuesday that the two countries would cooperate to conclude the TPP talks this week, both governments said.
Biden and Abe agreed that their negotiating teams for the Trans-Pacific Partnership would work closely together “with the goal of resolving the limited number of outstanding issues at the upcoming ministers meeting in Atlanta,” according to the White House.
Meantime high level politicians from both Canada and Japan are headed to Atlanta in an attempt to try and block the liberalisation of agricultural access.
The agriculture ministers of Quebec and Ontario — where Canada’s dairy industry is concentrated — Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Pierre Paradis and Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal will be in Atlanta.
In a May joint letter to Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, the two provincial ministers said they were worried about remarks Prime Minister Stephen Harper made in March to the effect that Canada has some difficult choices to make in the TPP negotiations because it cannot hold up a deal even if it is unhappy with some of its outcomes.
And the deputy governor of the Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture, a major farming region, is expected to attend the talks also.
Agricultural organizations in Hokkaido are opposed to the liberalisation of agriculture trade under TPP.
The Drama in Atlanta contrasts with the reception Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee is getting in Beijing.
Mr Brownlee met with Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission who said the two countries enjoyed strong ties that acted as a case study of win-win cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Xinhua quoted Mr Fan as saying that at present, the two militaries were implementing the consensus reached by their leaders, so as to deepen military cooperation to a new level.
Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan also held talks with Mr Brownlee on Monday afternoon.
Mr Chang said the two militaries had frequent high-level visits and enjoyed, smooth strategic communication and more pragmatic cooperation in recent years.
Mr Chang said China is willing to work with New Zealand to promote military-to-military ties.
Xinhua quoted Mr Brownlee as saying New Zealand attached importance to the ties with China, and there were fruitful achievements in the fields of politics, economy, military and people-people exchanges in recent years.