Auckland University law professor and outspoken opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Jane Kelsey says she understands Maori wanting to send a strong message to the Government at Waitangi Day commemorations.
Concerned about the effect on Maori and the non-inclusive way the 12-nation TPP deal has been handled, Ngapuhi elders will decide - or at least debate - at a hui tomorrow whether to allow the Government on to the marae on Waitangi Day.
"It's for tangata whenua to decide what is appropriate but given the Government has failed to meet its obligations to actively engage with Maori on international negotiations, as required by the Treaty of Waitangi, and the inadequacy of the Treaty exception, I fully understand their desire to send a clear message to the government," Dr Kelsey said.
Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua said he would consider blocking the Government from Te Tii Marae on Waitangi Day in protest to Thursday's TPP signing. However, some people felt opening the doors to the Government would provide a good opportunity to talk about the TPP and it was important to hear everyone's views, he said.
The controversial agreement will also be the focus of this year's pre-Waitangi Day hikoi from Cape Reinga.
Dr Kelsey said the stance of economists and politicians supporting the deal - that, even if the trade deal does not lead to billions of dollars flowing into New Zealand, it's better to be at the table now than miss out on future opportunities - "is a continuation of the 'there is no alternative' trade deal arguments that accompanied the neoliberal era".
"That era brought us increased inequality and child poverty, especially among Maori, and is unsustainable. We need to help construct a different table."
Dr Kelsey said the TPP could weaken existing partnerships within the Treaty and could also enable international interests to undermine the Treaty.
Dr Kelsey said the TPP will do little to narrow the gap between thriving and struggling regions within New Zealand.
"Local and regional government is covered by the agreement, and the ability to take steps to promote the regions is constrained by the TPP."
She and Lori Wallach, the head of Washington DC-based Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, are currently on a speaking tour of main centres. Ms Wallach is an expert on the impacts of international pacts and trade deals on communities and indigenous peoples.