Home > The Body Politic > They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part tahi)

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part tahi)

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no-tppa

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The New Zealand government is negotiating an international agreement that could have a huge effect on the lives of ordinary kiwis. It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), and it involves eleven Asian and Pacific-rim countries, including the United States. If it goes ahead, we risk damage to our innovative economy, our pristine environment, our health, and the ability to shape our own future.

Because the negotiations are being conducted in secret, what we know about the TPPA comes from leaked documents and detective work. We live in a democracy, which means we have the right to know what is done in our name and to have a say. “ –  It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA

Wellington, NZ, 29 March 2014 – Over 300 people gathered on a sunny, breezy day in downtown Wellington’s Cuba Mall, as party of a nation-wide protest against the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA);

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James Nokise, Comedian/Performer, MC’d the event, and spoke with just the right ‘mix’ of humour and  seriousness to the people;

 

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James Nokise - Comedian - Performer

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Though an  estimated 300 people attended the protest,  at times there seemed far more, as Cuba Mall was packed;

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The TPPA is currently being negotiated in secret, a point of fact which many find anti-democratic; threatening; and just plain unfair;

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Others understand the reality that the TPPA is not concerned with our welfare – but of the welfare of corporates to do as they wish, with minimal democratic oversight;

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Tom Rippon, Vice President for New Zealand Actors Equity, addressed the people and  had this to say on implications for the TPPA;

“Some of you may be aware that New Zealand gave up nearly all of its ability to regulate local content on our televisions in 1994. Under the General Agreement for Terms and Trade, or GATT for short, Jim Bolger’s National government, promised unlimited market access to any foreign broadcast service and their products if they were a signatory to the The World Trade Organization. In other words any moves to introduce regulation for local content including a compulsory television quota, similar to those seen in most if not all western countries, would breach our WTO obligations.

Subsequently, when Helen Clark’s government sought to introduce ways to support the production of local content they were completely hamstrung by this agreement and were rendered powerless to turn back the clock.

I should note here that the government did make one reservation relating to Maori broadcasting. And we’re very glad they did, or we wouldn’t have the successful and culturally vital Maori Television Service — which to this day continues to screen the highest proportion of locally produced content compared to all the other broadcasters.

In 2011, New Zealand content accounted for a measly 31% of all programming from 6am to midnight. This compares to a much healthier 60% in Europe and 55% in Australia. New Zealand performers are the living embodiment of our culture. Every time we step in front of the camera, every time we perform, we tell a story articulating our nation’s hopes, dreams and experiences. This ability to speak to one another with our own voice must be maintained into the future.

[…]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the GATT agreement on steroids. A corporate power grab on a scale never before seen in human history. This treaty is so repugnant that if a full text of the negotiations were released to the public tomorrow it would cease to exist by the end of the week because anyone with a brain and a gag reflex would reject it outright and the politicians involved in the negotiations, in our case John Key and his Trade Minister Tim Groser, would be forced to pull out due to overwhelming public pressure and condemnation.

Let’s not forget, this is an election year. As performers we have been stymied and constrained for two decades but this is where we draw the line, for the sake of our future generations our government must ensure that our culture is protected and reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And you must let them know that if they don’t, come Sept. they will pay the price and together we will vote them out.”

(For full text of his speech, please click here.)

In case Dear Leader believes that the hundreds who turned up on Saturday afternoon were “professional protesters”, the abundance of home-made signs indicated otherwise. These were ordinary Wellingtonians turning up, to show their opposition to the TPPA;

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Young and old, all cultures and races, and the ubiquitous Every Man and his dog;

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Some of the many signs expressing peoples’ views;

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Bolivian  Indigenous Rights activist,  Mayra Gomez, addressed the people, telling them how so-called “free” trade agreements had opened countries up to lawsuits by corporations. Ms Gomez said that the  the TPPA  would likewise allow foreign corporations to sue New Zealand for perceived “loss of profits;

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Ms Gomez gave three examples of how corporations had used “free” trade agreements to sue sovereign governments.

In her first example, she cited the case of  US-based Occidental Petroleum winning a US2.4 billion lawsuit against Ecuador, at a World Bank Court, under the US-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty, when the Ecuadorian government terminated its contract with Occidental citing breaches of licensing conditions and   environmental concerns.

In a second and even more bizarre example,   RENCO Group sued  Peru for $800 million because the Peruvian government had ordered the corporation to clean up lead pollution which had severely affected the children of La Oroya –  one of ten most polluted places on earth, according to Friends of Earth. RENCO used the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement to undertake it’s lawsuit.

And lastly, Ms Gomez revealed how US-based company, Lone Pine Resources, sought $250 million in “damages”,  claiming that  Canada had violated its North  America Free Trade Agreement committments – because it had imposed a moratorium on fracking in 2012, to conduct  environmental-impact assessments on the impacts of leached fracking chemicals and gases.

Ms Gomez concluded with a short, simple statement that drew heavy applause from the people;

“Until self-determination of indigenous people is not respected, there will not be sustainable goals achieved! Genuine sustainable goals! Lastly we call on the repeal of all existing agreements; a moratorium on all new agreements!”

Interesting to note that none of the problems caused by free trade agreements have ever been reported by any mainstream media in this country. It is up to overseas new media, bloggers, etc, and special interest groups to report on these events.

Because of the mainstream media “blackout” on these stories, very few New Zealanders are aware of what has happened in Ecuador, Peru, and even Canada – a fellow First World, Commonwealth state. Had these issues been properly reported, most New Zealanders would be horrified at the prospect of joining yet another free trade agreement that could leave us exposed to corporate lawsuits in offshore, secret tribunals.

The trivialisation of the media is so complete, that it is utterly derelict in it’s duty to report on issues that will have far-ranging consequences for all New Zealanders, for the foreseeable future.

As an example of media laziness, I refer the reader to this screenshot of NewstalkZB reporting on the nationwide protests;

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newstalkzb article - thousands march against tppa

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As the reader will notice, NewstalkZB could not even bring itself to post a photo of any of the actual protests, from any of the cities. Instead, it used a stock footage image of police, lined up against a building, from a totally unrelated event.

Ms Gomez was followed by  Victoria University economist, Geoff Bertram;

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“Following up the placard that’s to my right, that says “TPPA is not free trade”. Economists have put a lot of effort and time over the last century, into making the case that free trade can be a good idea from which all can benefit. And ndeed, any of you can go down and buy a flat screen tv and computer down at Tory Street will be familiar with the benefits you can get from free trade. But this deal is not about that. It’s being sold with two terms that you should not be taken in by. One is free trade. The other one is partnership. This is not really about partnership. It’s not really about free trade.

The sort things that are central to the so-called trade trade part of the agenda are in the area of non-tariff barriers. That is to say, restrictions on the ability of certain companies or agents to gain access to markets on terms thatr are favourable to them. So things like copyright,intellectual property, regulatory arrangements, and so on are central to negotiations agenda and it’s important to note that economic theory does not give the sort sort of support for removing non-tariff barriers.”

Geoff  explained about the “partnership” aspects of the TPPA,

“… About partnerships. Partnerships can come in various forms… in actual fact partnerships can also be extremely unequal and exploitative. And this one is not an equal partnership. This one is part of a geo-political project which has in the Pacific has the United States aghainst China, in a contest over influence and power and economic control across a wide area of the world. And New Zealand is stuck in the middle of this conflict because China is our biggest trading partner [and] the United States is a very major part-player in both our history and current economy and politics.”

Geoff Bertram pointed out a story in the Dominion Post where the United States was seeking to extend it’s influence by offering to help the European Union reduce it’s dependence  on Russian gas supplies by selling them gas instead. He said the US would first demand that Europe sign a Trans Atlantic partnership agreement. The Europeans, he said, “were  particularly anxious about the Investor-State Dispute Settlement arrangements” in the Partnership Agreement. Germany had refused to participate. There was strong resistance in Europe to signing the agreement.

Geoff said that the US pressuring of the Europe Union to join the partnership agreement “is what you’re looking at there is the exercise of power – it’s not the working out of economic theory, it’s the exercise of power“.  He read out a statement from President Obama, from a recent media story, that he said explained precisely was “free” trade agreements were all about,

“Once we have a trade agreement in place, export licenses for projects — for liquefied natural gas destined to Europe — would be much easier, something that’s obviously relevant in today’s geopolitical climate.”

He warned that power was “asymmetric in the modern world” and that New Zealand stood to be primarily on the losing side of any “power exercising that comes into play”. He further warned that we should be “very careful about stories” that the TPPA was supposedly about free trade.

His speech was simple, easy to understand by those of us who are not trained in the esoteric “arts” of economics, and had a ring of truth to it. He was warmly received by those listening.

As the afternoon progressed, numbers swelled, as more people arrived to join in with the protest and listen to speakers;

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Men and women, maori and pakeha, standing together in solidarity, on an issue that will affect us for generations to come;

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These are the faces of ‘ordinary’ (maybe not-so-ordinary – actually extraordinary!) New Zealanders who are concerned at the secrecy of the TPPA and the negative impact it will have on our sovereignty, as  New Zealand opens itself up to the threat of multi-billion dollar lawsuits by trans-national corporations;

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Eileen Brown, Policy and Programme Organiser from the CTU (Council of Trade Unions) spoke to the people;

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“The Trans Pacific Partnership contains threats to our health system; to our public services; to public enterprises; and our ability to use government purchasing to develop our economy and to our improve environment; the working conditions of New Zealanders, and our right to make laws and regulations that are in the interests of most New Zealanders.

…This agreement could have governments preventing employers to meet conditions such as paying a living wage. It could prevent governments requiring suppliers  to meet health and safety conditions that are currently being developed to improve our apalling health and safety statistics in New Zealand workplaces.

Each of these is a major concern.

So, to, is the absence of consultation. The secrecy in which negotiations are being held, and the fact that it is being adopted by governments without full public examination and opportunity for comment.

But perhaps the greatest threat and the greatest concern in the long run is what this represents. This kind of agreement increases the power of international  corporations and it reduces the power of elected governments and it’s citizens to resist corporate demands. It fails to learn the lessons of the Global Financial Crisis which demonstrated the enormous damage that irresponsible corporations can do to the world economy.”

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This was an issue that cut across generations;

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Many faces, one message;

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The Nurses Organisation was represented at the protest, and was at the fore-front when the march to Parliament began;

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To be concluded: They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part rua)

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References

Fairfax media: Hundreds join TPPA protest in capital

It’s Our Future:  What is the TPPA

Scoop media: Gordon Campbell on the leaks about the Trans Pacific Partnership

South Centre: When Foreign Investors Sue the State

Friends of the Earth: Pay the polluter $800 million! Trade deal injustice for the children of La Oroya

Friends Committee on National Legislation: Exposing Biggest Trade Deal in U.S. History

NewstalkZB: Thousands march against TPPA

ABC News: Obama Highlights Need for US-EU Energy Cooperation

Support groups

Facebook: It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA

Facebook: Aotearoa is Not for Sale

Copyright

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Acknowledgement

This blogger wishes to thank Mana Party organisor, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati, for kindly lending me her camera. Mine finally gave up the mechanical ghost and I would not have been able to complete this blogpost without her timely assistance. I am deeply appreciative of her kindness and trust.

– Frank Macskasy

 

 

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vote mana labnour green

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 April 2014.

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= fs =

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  1. Priss
    8 April 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I attended the Auckland march – a great day!

  2. Bill & Jane
    11 April 2014 at 11:56 pm

    We were overseas at the time, otherwise we would have attended! From what we’ve read, the TPPA is a real shocker! I guess we won’t be voting National this year!

  3. Milan
    16 April 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Every time I hear a Nat voter support the TPPA, I ask him (it’s usually a him) ‘if it’s such a good deal, why is is being done in secret’? Especially when the text has been released in other countries.

    This whole thing stinks. Anyway, I couldn’t attend so I sent a donation to “It’s Our Future”. Every bit helps I guess!

  4. Becky
    25 April 2014 at 2:18 am

    We’ll be voting for the party that opposes the TPP, keep up writing.

  1. 9 April 2014 at 8:07 am
    Mad catlady
  2. 11 April 2014 at 12:20 am
  3. 10 November 2014 at 7:23 am
  4. 15 November 2014 at 8:01 am
  5. 1 August 2015 at 8:35 am
  6. 7 August 2015 at 8:04 am
  7. 16 August 2015 at 8:49 am
  8. 21 August 2015 at 8:00 am
  9. 22 August 2015 at 8:01 am
  10. 16 November 2015 at 11:23 am
  11. 21 November 2015 at 8:01 am

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