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New Zealand: Ratification of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Completed

(May 23, 2017) On May 11, 2017, the New Zealand government completed the formal process for ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, becoming the second signatory country, after Japan, to do so. (Press Release, Todd McClay, McClay Says TPP Ratification Keeps Options Open, BEEHIVE.GOVT.NZ (May 11, 2017).) The notification of the completion of New Zealand’s applicable legal procedures for the entry into force of the TPP Agreement followed the passage of legislation in November 2016 to ensure that domestic legislation complies with the country’s obligations under the Agreement. (Kelly Buchanan, New Zealand: Trans-Pacific Partnership Bill Passed, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Nov. 22, 2016).)

Japan’s ratification process was completed on January 20, 2017. (Press Release, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Notification of Completion of Domestic Procedures for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement (Jan. 20, 2017).) At that time, the Japanese government stated that it “intends to continue to tenaciously encourage other original signatories to promptly complete their domestic procedures toward the entry into force of the TPP Agreement, in light of the significance of the TPP.” (Id.)

In announcing New Zealand’s ratification, Trade Minister Todd McClay stated that the “Cabinet’s decision sends a clear message that we see value in a common set of high-quality rules across the Asia-Pacific and we are keeping all of our options open.” (McClay Says TPP Ratification Keeps Options Open, supra.) The move came ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade, which took place in Vietnam from May 19-21, 2017.  McClay was the co-chair of a separate meeting of TPP country ministers that was held during that meeting. (Id.) After the meeting, the ministers of the eleven remaining TPP signatory countries issued a joint statement in which they “agreed on the value of realising the TPP’s benefits and to that end, they agreed to launch a process to assess options to bring the comprehensive, high quality Agreement into force expeditiously, including how to facilitate membership for the original signatories.” (Press Release, Todd McClay, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement Ministerial Statement, BEEHIVE.GOVT.NZ (May 21, 2017).)

The discussions during the APEC meeting followed the January 30, 2017, notification by the United States, the twelfth signatory to the TPP Agreement, stating its intention not to become a party to the agreement.  (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade website (last visited May 22, 2017); Press Release, Office of the United States Trade Representative, The United States Officially Withdraws from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Jan. 30, 2017).)

In order to enter into force, the TPP Agreement must be ratified by at least six signatory countries that collectively account for at least 85% of the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the original signatories.  (TPP Agreement, art. 30.5(3), New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade website.)   This means that the Agreement cannot come into force in its current form without the ratification of the United States, which accounts for 60% of the GDP of the original signatories.  (Kristen Gelineau, Push to Save Pacific Rim Trade Deal After US Exits TPP Pact, AP NEWS (Jan. 24, 2017).)