New Zealand and the United States are currently negotiating a new free trade agreement. The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), with eleven other countries in the Asia-Pacific region – Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Vietnam, Peru, Korea, Singapore, Canada and Mexico. In December 2012 all met for the 15th round of negotiations at Sky City, Auckland.

Several hundreds protestors presented an AVAAZ petition here opposing the TPPA, signed by 750,000 world citizens. Organisers refused to accept the petition.

The TPPA would link countries together in a free trade zone, but the agreement, is bigger than trade. It’s 29 chapters will set binding rules on everything from service sector regulation, investment, patents and copyrights, government procurement, financial regulation, labour and environmental standards as well as industrial goods and agriculture.

Negotiations started in 2007 and whilst the draft text can be cited by the 600 corporate lobbyists involved the public cannot cite it despite calls for transparency.

The main concern with the TPPA is that a democratic system gives way to the rights of foreign investors to trump laws passed by legislative bodies and seek compensation for lost profitability. The Biotech Industry Organisation have said they want GMO labelling restricted under the TPPA. At the moment, in NZ any food with more than 1% GM content has to be labelled. Supermarkets don’t typically stock GM products because they know consumers dont like them, but we wont have that choice and neither will they if labelling laws are revoked. 83% of New Zealanders are in favour of GM labelling.

Consequently this agreement undermines the power of our government to maintain consumer, environmental and labour laws and protect public assets, while denying medicine to poor people and making it easier for copyright owners to take down websites they don’t like.

Over $350 million dollars in compensation has already been paid out to corporations in a series of investor-state cases under NAFTA style deals, a precursor trade agreement to the TPPA. Seventeen pending claims total $12.5 billion and all relate to environmental, public health and transportation policy – not trade.

Australia has recently opted out of the TPPA and Korea is threatening to derail it unless the investor-state component is removed.

For more information on the TPPA go to www.itsourfuture.org.nz