Joyce criticises stance against trade deal which he says would help regional areas.

Labour MP Stuart Nash has dismissed criticism of him by senior minister Steven Joyce for marching and speaking at an anti-TPP rally in Napier, one of more than 20 protests across the country that attracted 25,000 people by organisers' counts.

Mr Nash was one of at least six Labour MPs who took part in nationwide marches on Saturday, as was Labour's trade spokesman, David Parker, who spoke at the Dunedin rally. Others were Phil Twyford, Ruth Dyson, Megan Woods, and Clare Curran, while Jacinda Ardern apologised for her absence.

Mr Joyce, the Economic Development Minister, said Labour tried to suggest it was generally in favour of TPP and trade deals as a way of backing regional New Zealand but then attended anti-TPP rallies, including in Hawkes Bay.

Hundreds gather in Napier to protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

It shows they are "speaking out both sides of their mouths".

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"I think they are certainly split on it but it also shows they haven't got any discipline on it either."

He was most surprised at the attendance of Mr Nash, of Napier, one of the few MPs Labour has from regional New Zealand.

"These trade deals are about the meat industry, the apple industry, the wine industry, the horticultural industry, all those food areas getting access to some of the biggest populations in the world and lowering their tariffs and he is wandering along to an anti-TPP rally.

"I think the Napier people will be very surprised at what they elected."

Mr Nash said he had been an importer and trader for eight years.

"I support free trade, without a question of a doubt, but it is not free trade at any cost.

"I know how valuable trade can be ... but I have real concerns about this free trade agreement.

"Because we have no idea what is in this agreement, it is impossible to support it."

Labour's position is to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership only if it meets five conditions:

• Pharmac must be protected.

• Corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest.

• New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident foreign buyers.

• The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld.

• Meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access.

Mr Nash was very hopeful the TPP would meet Labour's conditions.

Mr Joyce said the TPP was among a number of issues on which Labour's position was confusing.

The last round of TPP ministerial talks in Hawaii ended with no agreement. Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser will have meetings in Kuala Lumpur next week on the sidelines of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership talks.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

• US President Barack Obama wants it finished this year.
• 12 countries negotiating.
• Would give NZ free-trade deal with US, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Peru.
• Three sticking points: dairy, autos, patents on pharmaceuticals.