Protesters condemn 'secret trade deals'

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 13:00 10/12/2012
Trafalgar St, Nelson
MARTIN de RUYTER/Fairfax NZ

NO-GO: Protesters in Trafalgar St make their feelings clear about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

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Nelsonians came out in force to protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on Saturday, with fears it that would sell New Zealand's sovereignty and lead to control by multinational corporations.

TPPA negotiators were in Auckland last week for the 15th round of talks on the trade pact, but the deals are being made behind closed doors.

Critics say the agreement will open up signatories such as New Zealand to litigation from major offshore companies over laws that may infringe on their profits.

The Greens, Mana and NZ First are apposed to the TPPA, and Labour has passed a remit outlining caveats which would reject many aspects of the agreement.

Prime Minister John Key said last week that the public should ignore protesters who "live in a world that doesn't want to see New Zealand intersecting globally".

That didn't stop about 300 people from marching from Millers Acre in Nelson to the Queen's Gardens, with placards opposing the TPPA.

Protest organiser Graeme O'Brien said secret deals were "not democracy", and urged people to find out more about the TPPA at itsourfuture.org.nz.

"Secret deals have no place in a democratic society.

"We're talking about New Zealand. We're not talking about business. It's an attack on our sovereignty," he said.

Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand co-editor Teresa O'Connor said the TPPA could force the axing of Pharmac, because of pressure from multinational pharmaceutical companies, which would lead to higher medical costs.

New Zealanders currently paid half the amount that Australians paid for pharmaceutical drugs, but that would change.

Green list MP Steffan Browning said multinational companies would be able to sue the Government and councils in New Zealand if they brought in legislation or regulations that interrupted their business intentions.

"It could undermine the ability of regional councils to manage the environment in the interests of their communities," he said.

Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street said it was possible to be in favour of free trade without being in favour of the TPPA. "The time has passed when these deals can be done behind closed doors. That used to be the way it was done. We need to see the words on the page," she said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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