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March against ‘dirty deal’ done in secrecy

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement was labelled a ”dirty deal” and an attack on democracy as 1500 protesters rallied in the Octagon to voice their displeasure on Saturday. The protest, part of a national day of action across 23 centres, drew MPs, city councillors and health professionals to join forces in Dunedin to oppose the agreement. Not even the threat of rain deterred the large crowd from marching along George St, carrying placards and shouting slogans such as: ”TPPA, no way!” and ”TPPA, taking people’s power away”.

Like other critics of the proposed trade agreement – planned for 12 countries including New Zealand the United States, Japan, Singapore and Australia – the protesters slammed the deal as an attack on democracy and a ”corporate power grab”. They were also concerned negotiations had been shrouded in secrecy. Once the crowd arrived in the Octagon the protesters listened to speeches, poetry and music. Dunedin based Green Party co leader Metiria Turei said the TPPA was a ”dirty deal” and an attack on New Zealand’s environment and ”fundamental democratic rights to determine for ourselves what happens in our own country”. ”This land belongs to us. It doesn’t belong to John Key or Steven Joyce,” she said.

The Green Party had challenged the Government to release the cost benefit analysis of the trade agreement. Public Health Association member Dr Alex Macmillan said the TPPA would take away access to affordable medicines through Pharmac. ”Pharmac fights for fair and affordable medicine for everyone and big pharmaceutical companies do not like that.” It would also take away New Zealand’s right to limit the power and harm of ”big tobacco and big alcohol” and limit the country’s ability to fight climate change. Dunedin City Councillor Jinty MacTavish was concerned it would limit the power of local government when it came to procurement. Many commentators believed the TPPA would restrict the ability for both local and central Government to take into account non financial measures when procuring goods and services. ”So, if we want to improve environmental standards through our procurement or we want to favour local [businesses], that may be more difficult, or it may not be possible if the TPPA is implemented.” The Dunedin march came as protesters gathered in up to 23 centres, including all of New Zealand’s largest cities. Supporters of the TPPA, including New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the deal would deepen economic ties and open up trade, boost investment flows, and promote closer economic and regulatory co operation.

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