This afternoon I joined protests against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The biggest trade deal in history is being signed in Auckland today by its 12 members from across the Pacific region.
Naomi Klein, in her book This Changes Everything, says that indigenous communities are on the forefront of the battles against climate change and fossil fuel extraction. Here in New Zealand, Maori are standing up to the erosion of democracy and excess of corporate power embodied by the TPPA. The signing of the treaty so close to Waitangi Day has heightened the outrage of many Maori leaders and iwi. They say the agreement was made without consultation and undermines the Waitangi Treaty – the agreement their ancestors negotiated with British settlers in the nineteenth century.
Embarrassingly, the government struggled to find a group who would give foreign dignitaries a traditional Maori welcome when they came for the signing today. And there’s been big debate about whether PM John Key should be blocked by the local community at the Waitangi celebrations on Saturday.
The TPPA is a sister agreement to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the US. These agreements represent a frightening undermining of national sovereignty and democratic rule. Negotiations have been held in secret and could mean a race to the bottom on environmental regulation and workers rights. Meanwhile, the ‘rights’ they give to corporations to sue countries for regulations that don’t suit them is mind-boggling. In the face of challenges like climate change and possible financial crises, now is the time to reign in corporate power not hand them more on a plate.
I felt moved today by the speeches of women and men fighting for the rights of New Zealand’s poor and excluded people, many of whom are Maori or Pacific Islanders. For them, the fight against TTIP is another fight for survival – fighting the corporations and politicians who would have them driven further and further into poverty and exclusion.
It feels to me that the watchword of the next 10 years will be ‘resistance’. Resistance to the austerity measures of right-wing governments. Resistance to the fossil fuel companies, hell-bent on frying the planet. Resistance to the fascists persecuting people affected by war and terror. And resistance to attacks on democracy, like that posed by the TPPA. It was good to be part of that resistance today.