A noisy crowd gathered in Auckland this morning to voice opposition to a proposed trans-Pacific free trade agreement which they say will strip New Zealand of its strategic assets and open it up to rampant foreign investment.
Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) - a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between New Zealand, the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam - are being held in Auckland this week.
Auckland University academic Jane Kelsey, who authored a book on the proposal titled Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, told protesters outside Auckland's Sky City the agreement would give foreign investors the right to trump New Zealand's democratic process, and decide the Government's actions for the next 100 years.
"They will threaten our rights to control foreign investment with privatisations of strategic assets. We know that our chances of getting them back when the privatisations fail will be nil when this agreement is signed.
"We know that we are looking at the issues around GE labelling, that the agro (agricultural) businesses in the US will be insisting that there is no right for GE labelling - we can't make our own decisions to know what it is that we're eating."
Ms Kelsey also warned that tobacco company Philip Morris had used clauses in a similar FTA to sue the government of Uruguay when it tried to introduce restrictions on tobacco advertising.
And New Zealand companies such as Fonterra would not stand to gain from such an agreement because the US Government would not allow it access to its dairy market, she said.
The protesters, organised by the Unite and National Distribution Unions, held a banner saying "stop gambling with our future" and rolled large dice along Federal St, under Auckland's Sky Tower, with "mega bonuses", "smash unions", "privatisation" and "GE" written on the sides.
Auckland City Councillor Cathy Casey also addressed the crowd, saying that the TPPA was bad news for Auckland Council and every council in the country.
"This TPPA does not support local business, indeed, it opens the door to global multi-national companies to come in to this country, take over our local businesses and buy up our assets," she said.
The TPPA began life as an FTA between New Zealand, Singapore and Chile in 2002. Since then it has grown to include nine countries with Canada, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan also showing an interest.
Progress to a free trade pact
2001: NZ, Singapore sign Closer Economic Partnership
2005: Chile joins, creating P3 (Pacific 3) or Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership
2005: Brunei joins making it P4
2008: US under Bush and Australia, Peru, Vietnam agree to negotiate
2009: Feb, Obama postpones talks
2009: Nov, Obama agrees to join talks
2010: Mar, round 1 in Melbourne
2010: June, round 2 in San Francisco
2010: Oct, Malaysia joins
2010: Oct, round 3 in Brunei
2010: Nov, Japan agrees to consider joining
2010: Dec, round 4 in Auckland
In the negotiations
New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Brunei, United States, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia