After years of tense negotiations and vocal protests, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal is about to be signed.
Ministers from the 12 member countries, including newly minted New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay, are descending on Auckland on Thursday for the official signing ceremony, which marks another step towards the world’s largest free trade pact becoming a reality.
Security will be tight around the SkyCity Convention Centre, where the signing will take place, with thousands of protesters expected to take to the streets to voice their opposition to the deal.
The government estimates the overall benefit of the TPP to New Zealand will be at least $NZ2.7 billion ($A2.49 billion) a year by 2030.
While tariff savings are expected to hit $NZ259 million a year, New Zealand wasn’t able to secure the complete elimination of tariffs on key beef and dairy exports.
But the deal’s benefits have been questioned by opponents, including the Labour Party, who are worried about curbs on New Zealand’s sovereignty.
Prime Minister John Key says his main concern is making sure people understand what’s in the 6000-page TPP text and what it means.
‘If you go and have a look at the commentary from those who actually understand what TPP does, it overwhelmingly is supportive of the government signing it and of the benefits to New Zealand,” he said.
‘If you look at what this is all about it’s greater access to international markets, it’s openness, it’s connectiveness.’
TPP trade ministers announced in October last year that they had finally struck a deal after several days of crunch talks.
The TPP started out in 2006 as the P4 free trade agreement between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.
The United States kicked off negotiations to join the deal in 2008, prompting a number of other Pacific rim countries to join in.
It eventually expanded to include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.
Those countries have a combined population of more than 800 million and account for more than a third of the global economy.
Once the TPP has been signed, it will still need to be ratified by each of the member countries. It’s anticipated it will come into effect two years after signing.