TPP protesters were 'misinformed', says John Key
Prime Minister John Key says protesters against a Pacific-wide free trade deal were misinformed.
Key said that demonstrators were demanding to see the agreement before it was signed, despite that never being done before.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched against the Government's controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in rallies across the country on Saturday.
Talks on the deal stalled in Hawaii last month with New Zealand digging in over dairy trade and Japan and the United States disagreeing over the auto industry.
But Key said the protesters, only about one-third of which he said were "genuine", were adamant they should know what the TPP involves before negotiations had been wrapped up.
"Name a single free trade agreement we've ever done in the public," he asked on TVNZ's Breakfast.
"The China free trade agreement was like every single FTA we do behind closed doors."
"This is a free trade agreement with the United States and Japan - two enormous markets. Are we saying we'd be better off not having a trade deal with these countries?" Key said.
About 10,000 protesters turned up to march in Auckland; 5000 in Wellington; 4000 in Christchurch and thousands more in other parts of the country.
But Key said one-third of those were rent-a-crowd protesters who opposed any free trade deal and another third were Labour and Green supporters who opposed anything the Government did.
Reports that Pharmac, the Government's drug supplier, would be disestablished under the TPP were simply not true, he said.
"Pharmac will still be able to carry on with its own policies."
Key said the TPP was a complicated deal and people were relying on "a bit of headline information".
He told Mediaworks that protesters were opposing something they hadn't seen yet and were doing so with "misinformation".
"Go look at an FTA we've signed and show me one we want to rip up."
But Labour deputy leader Annette King said National's approach to the weekend's protests was disgraceful and she heavily criticised Trade Minister Tim Groser, who is negotiating the deal on behalf of the Government.
In response to comments from Groser that the protesters had been "misled" and would oppose all free trade agreements - King said he sounded like an "arrogant minister in a third-term government".
"I've been staggered at his dismissal, and his abruptness and rudeness at New Zealanders who have a point of view," she told Radio NZ.
King said Kiwis had every right to go to the street and protest against the Government and what appeared to be a bad deal for dairy and Pharmac.
"I've got a feeling Groser has his own concerns when he said there was five per cent of the deal that kept him awake at night," she said.