Talk Money with Tony Field – October 6, 2015

Tim Groser (AAP)
Tim Groser (AAP)

Finally, a deal has been reached.

In Atlanta this morning the 12 nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA) announced they had reached an agreement after five years of negotiations.

The talks certainly took their toll on the negotiators. The final deal making in Atlanta was supposed to run for two days. That turned into six days.

One of New Zealand's negotiating team had to be treated for exhaustion.

Despite those efforts New Zealand was not able to remove all tariffs on dairy and beef products.

"[The TPPA] breaks new ground for us. It is our first FTA relationship with the United States - the world's biggest consumer market - as well as with Japan, Canada, Mexico and Peru," says Trade Minister Tim Groser.

The Government says that by 2030 the deal will be worth an extra $2.7 billion a year for the economy.

Fonterra chairman John Wilson says the deal is a "small but significant step forward for the dairy sector".

"While I am very disappointed that the deal falls far short of [TPPA's] original ambition to eliminate all tariffs, there will be some useful gains for New Zealand dairy exporters in key [TPPA] markets such as the US, Canada and Japan," he says.

"Greater benefits will be seen in future years as tariffs on some product lines are eliminated."

He described the outcome as "far from perfect" but added "we appreciate the significant effort made by Minister Groser and his negotiators to get some gains in market access for our farmers".

He singled out the "entrenched protectionism" of the US dairy industry as a particular concern that meant "the deal on dairy failed to reach its potential".

Copyright protections have been extended from 50 to 70 years. Mr Groser says the cost to New Zealand consumers and businesses will be minimal to start with and increase gradually over 20 years.

Mr Groser says there will be no change to the amount that consumers pay for medicines. He says the costs to the Government for subsidising medicines will not rise by a large extent.

It will cost $4.5 million to set up new software and after that the extra operating costs will be $2.5 million a year.

Opponents of the deal won't be convinced. They will want to see the full text.

It looks like we will have to wait for thirty days before the full text is released.

Then each of the 12 members of the TPPA must formally sign the agreement and ensure it is ratified by their respective legislatures.

The big question is whether US President Barack Obama can win approval from a Republican controlled Congress. Many people within the President's own Democratic Party have concerns.

The President did win the support of enough Republicans to gain authorisation to fast track the negotiations.

But whether he can win approval for the deal itself is a different question.

One of the controversial parts is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism. It allows investors to take governments to arbitration. Some people fear this will allow corporations to try to get around regulations here in New Zealand and in the other 11 TPPA nations.

But in a surprise move the United States has agreed to exclude the tobacco companies from the arbitration mechanism. This means that the tobacco companies will not be allowed to try to overturn plain packaging laws.

This might help to alleviate the concerns of some people within the Democratic Party.

Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is among those who is opposed to the TPPA. So too is Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Once the text is released there must be a sixty day wait before the Congress can consider the legislation. This makes it likely that any vote will not occur until around the time the US presidential primaries begin.

Canada will be interesting to watch as well. There has been widespread opposition to the deal and Canadians have an election on the 19th of this month.

The TPPA means that New Zealand will have trade agreements with all five of its top trading partners: Australia, China, the United States, Japan and Korea.

The 12 members of the TPPA are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The TPPA countries have a combined population of more than 800 million and the 11 other countries account for over 40 percent of New Zealand's overall exports.

KiwiSaver funds are now collectively worth over $28.5 billion. That is almost as large as the investments managed by the New Zealand Super Fund and by the Accident Compensation Corporation.

A review by the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) says in the year to June, KiwiSaver funds grew by $7.1 billion – an increase of over 30 percent from June 2014.

Around $3 billion of that was earnings on the money invested by the funds in global markets. That is up from earnings of $1.5 billion in the previous year.

The $3 billion figure indicates the average return on funds was more than 10 percent for KiwiSaver investors in the year to June. But it's likely that some growth funds did much better than that while some funds would have under-performed.

KiwiSaver members contributed an additional $2.4 billion in the year to June, employer contributions totalled $1.5 billion and the Government contributed $926 million.

Withdrawals totalled a record $657 million. That was a mix of people retiring ($421 million), first home purchases ($218 million) and people withdrawing money due to financial hardship ($42.9 million).

It has been a strong run for the markets. But since March of this year the global markets have been volatile and have lost ground.

The FMA's director of markets oversight, Garth Stanish says the "higher returns reflected an extended period of positive market conditions, which have peaked during the last 12 months".

"Those levels of positive returns are unlikely to be seen again for some time and investors need to be prepared for a period of lower returns and increased volatility ahead."

The FMA says it is planning to introduce new rules to govern the way that the KiwiSaver fund managers' report their returns and their fees. The aim is to ensure that people are able to easily compare the different funds.

The report contains some interesting insight into the behaviour of Kiwisaver's more than 2 million members.

Membership increased by 8.3 percent to 2.5 million members.

More than 265,000 people transferred $2.5 billion between schemes.

Around 93,000 people switched their investment option.

More than $230 million was transferred from other superannuation schemes.

One million people are regarded as non-contributors. This means that by not making payments they are missing out on the Government's tax credit of $521.43 per year (for people aged between 18 and 65).

The New Zealand dollar made fresh gains overnight.

The Kiwi was trading at 91.77 Australian cents at 8:15am.

It had risen to 65.06 US cents.

The Kiwi was trading at 42.92 pence, 78.38 Yen and 58.21 Euro cents.

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