Protesters fear impact of TPP agreement

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 12:01 31/03/2014
Warwick Smith / Fairfax NZ

Action against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) - speakers and music in the Square, Palmerston North, 29.03.2014

Jeff Sluka
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ
CONCERNS: Massey University Associate Professor Jeff Sluka speaks against the TPPA.

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The overriding message from Palmerston North protesters against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is to vote in a new government.

But a Green Party candidate says people cannot trust the Labour Party, its potential coalition partner, to get a good deal out of the TPP because of its track record.

About 150 people gathered in The Square on Saturday afternoon as part of a nationwide day of protest.

The TPP is a free trade agreement proposed between 12 Asian and Pacific countries, including New Zealand and the United States.

Other protests took place in Auckland, Wellington, Invercargill and other New Zealand towns and cities.

At the Palmerston North protest, lecturers, politicians and activists took to the stage to spell out why they are against the proposed agreement.

Labour MP for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway said that, while trade agreements in the past had been good for the country, the TPP could see the country worse off in the long run.

The agreement could leave the Government open to being sued by businesses if it tried to pass certain policies, he said.

"This is much more than a trade agreement."

Lees-Galloway said the main issue was the fact most people did not know what was in the agreement because it was not being made public.

The agreement was unlikely to be signed before the election on September 20, so people had a chance to change the government and possibly get a different result, he said.

"There is a chance there could be a different bunch of people at the bargaining table for us."

If in the position to form a government, Labour will likely team up with the Green Party.

Green Party candidate Jack McDonald, who is standing in the Te Tai Hauauru electorate, said a new government was needed to either get the agreement in the open or walk away from it.

But Labour were not the best people to do that, he said. "We can't really trust Labour to get rid of this deal."

While Labour had not negotiated in secret, it had a long track record of supporting free trade deals despite various political issues, he said.

"If you look at the China agreement, it did not matter much to Labour that China had annexed Tibet."

Massey University political anthropology lecturer Associate Professor Jeff Sluker got the biggest cheers of the day when he said trade agreements had been extremely harmful to people across the world.

While big economic impacts were being promised, most of the money would go to big companies, he said.

"From experience, it is proven beyond any doubt that 99 per cent of profits from free trade agreements go to the 1 per cent."\

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