Thousands protest at trade deal

LAIRD HARPER AND FAIRFAX NZ
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2014
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CHARLOTTE CURD
Moana Williams leads the way during the TPPA protest hikoi around the New Plymouth CBD.

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Growing frustration over a Pacific-wide trade deal bubbled to the surface in New Plymouth on Saturday.

Sparked by growing concern that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) would undermine democracy, about 40 people joined thousands of protesters across New Zealand who voiced their concerns at being shut out of the negotiations.

Waving placards saying "TPPA Makes NZ a Colony of USA" and "Corporate Greed Over Kiwi Need", the protest group marched through the city.

Taranaki protest co-organiser Moana Williams said the Government had effectively turned its back on the Treaty of Waitangi.

"If John Key is making any negotiations with overseas governments why isn't he negotiating with Nga Puhi, our Kaitiaki of our treaty," she said.

Negotiators from the countries involved decided that the text for the agreement would not be released until negotiations conclude.

Williams fears the agreement would lead to increased cost for medicine, genetically modified foods being sold and more mining being allowed.

"It is a real danger to our freedoms and our rights, and most worrying is the threat to our democracy and self determination.

"We won't be able to see how our sovereignty and our country is being raped and ransacked in the name of potential profit margin until it is too late."

She said the protest march was the right move.

"Marching through the streets of Taranaki has drawn more attention, with people wanting to find out what TPPA is and what it means."

New Plymouth's Green Party candidate Sarah Roberts said the public needed to be involved in the process.

"The public of New Zealand and our Parliament deserve the opportunity to consider and debate the TPPA before it is signed," she said.

Labour leader David Cunliffe spoke at an Auckland rally but would not state his party's final position on the agreement.

"I'm going to wait until I see the details."

The TPPA was a "fundamentally important agreement" but the public did not know what was included in the text, he said.

"There's a wide range of opinions, some people are absolutely opposed, some people think it's a great deal and the fact is nobody really knows because there's 300 pages of details in [trade minister] Tim Groser's safe and he's not showing anybody and that's wrong," Cunliffe said.

Meanwhile, First Union general secretary Robert Reid said the TPPA was "globalisation on steroids".

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In Wellington, Oxfam senior policy adviser Sarah Meads said the secrecy surrounding TPPA negotiations was "unacceptable".

- Taranaki Daily News

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