TOKYO -- Tim Groser, New Zealand's minister of trade, said Friday he is excited about the economic benefits the world will receive from a raft of potential free-trade agreements in the works, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Speaking in Tokyo at the 20th International Conference on The Future of Asia, Groser made the case for Japan's participation in the TPP and addressed fears about the impact of the planned accord on the country's agricultural sector.
"The success of TPP is recognized as crucial to achieving structural reform in Japan," he said, linking the issue with the economic policy mix implemented by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government. "What drives protectionism is not so much vested interests, but fear of change," he said.
Groser cited the example of New Zealand's wine industry, and how its success following trade liberalization has defied predictions of ruin from New Zealand's winemakers. The key has been to produce a high-quality product.
"Japan's agriculture future does not lie in trying to compete on cost, but on quality. And there is a future there," Groser said. "The future is in high-quality, specialized agribusiness appealing to the new generation of wealthy Asia-Pacific consumers who are more concerned with quality and food safety than price. That is a huge market. But to achieve this will require structural adjustment."