Downtown Auckland, NZ was at a standstill today as an estimated 1,000 protesters rallied against the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was underway in the Auckland’s Sky City Casino. As representatives from 12 countries formally signed the TPP agreement, protesters yelled, chanted and performed haka, a traditional dance of the Maori peoples of New Zealand.
Before the signing commenced, activists rallied at Aotea Square and walked to Sky City Casino, marching right through the roadways. Some activists formed a sit-ins at key locations such as the intersection of Federal and Victoria Street, the end of Hobson Street, and the Fanshawe Street entrance and exit to the Northern Motorway.
“Petitions, marches and lobbying have their place; but now the TPP is being signed on our doorstep, and we feel it is time to try to shut it down and create a TPP-free zone.” said Julia Espinoza of activist group Real Choice, the main organizing force behind the protest.
Among the protesters was Former Green MP Sue Bradford, who reported to the NZ Herald, “Just about all of the Harbour Bridge is blocked off. But we’ll keep moving. This is our third blockade today.”
Protesters are concerned with the effects of the TPP on the middle and working class, arguing that the trade deal will favor corporations and the interests of wealthy investors while stealing jobs and lowering wages for the rest. Regulation may also prove difficult or impossible to enforce.
Despite the protests, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key claimed to be “delighted” by the agreement, saying “New Zealand is proud to be involved in this whole process…I want to acknowledge the courage and vision of my fellow TPP leaders.”
But earlier this week, independent UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas said the TPP “is fundamentally flawed and should not be signed or ratified unless provision is made to guarantee the regulatory space of States.”
In addition to New Zealand, the TPP agreement includes the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei and Singapore.