By Joe McClure, Fightback (Wellington).
On the afternoon of Saturday March 29, protests took place around New Zealand, against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) currently going through Parliament.
In Wellington, this consisted of a march from Cuba St, to the steps of Parliament. Around 200 people gathered at the Bucket Fountain in Cuba St from 1:00pm, listening to representatives from CTU, Victoria University economics department, and the Mana party, who discussed what the agreement’s about and who it favours.
Protestors marched from Cuba St to Parliament, chanting slogans including ‘TPPA? No way! We’re gonna fight it all the way!’ and ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’
Outside parliament, security staff were blocking access to the designated assembly area, where the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) had arranged for a PA system to be set up, so marchers gathered in the grassy area next to that section instead.
Mana leader Hone Harawira addressed those present, emphasizing the unequal advantage the TPPA provides to member states, and punitive effects on non-members, and reminding voters to take a stand for fair treatment of all trading partners, rather than supporting the secret negotiations that have characterised TPPA planning stages.
Protestors from Parihaka in Taranaki also attended, encouraging marchers to reject the intended agreement, before switching to Maori protest songs as the crowd gradually dissipated.
Why do we oppose the TPPA?
The TPPA effects both trade between countries, and the operations of multinational companies within countries. It overrides internal legislation if a signatory introduces legislation that hurts the economic interests of another country. For example, plain packaging of cigarettes could be overturned as it undermines the profits of tobacco companies, or environmental legislation annulled if it adversely affects an oil corporation (thus making it harder to stop projects like deep sea oil drilling). The agreement involves reducing trade tariffs by 90% by 2009, and completely removing tariffs by 2015. It would entitle US drugs corporations to override Pharmac regulating the sale of pharmaceuticals in New Zealand, and enable parties to the agreement to protect intellectual property violations in other countries party to the agreement.
Such measure will benefit multinational corporations (such as Fonterra in NZ), but will hurt working class people in signatory states. It will make it harder for people to fight and win legislative changes that protect working class communities, and instead strengthen the hands of corporations in their drive for greater profit.