Horse races, champers, sing-a-longs celebrate trade victory
AS GUESTS arrived at the Australian High Commission in Wellington for the Melbourne Cup, a different sort of protest celebration was taking place outside.
A 15-strong group led horse races, drank from champagne flutes, and held sing-a-longs of Waltzing Matilda.
The group, made up of members of Aotearoa Is Not For Sale Wellington, People’s Power Ohariu and It’s Our Future, called out congratulations to party-goers as they entered the High Commission.
Their message, however, was more serious than the spirit of fun would suggest.
The group intended to draw attention to the Australian Governments recent decision to refuse to include investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses in their free trade agreements with the U.S.
This decision is in contrast to the New Zealand Governments current stance on such clauses, says It’s Our Future spokesperson Stephen Parry.
“Australia is taking a strong stand against ISTS. New Zealand, on the other hand, is equivocating on it.
“As far as we can tell from leaked texts, there’s everything to suggest that New Zealand will support investor-state dispute settlements.”
The ISDS would mean that New Zealand would be part of international arbitration tribunals which take place with no public transparency, and overrule national laws, he says.
“It’s basically selling out the right to regulate ourselves.”
The ISDS clause is a part of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), a trade agreement between 11 countries that is currently being negotiated behind closed doors.
People’s Power Ohariu spokesperson John Maynard says it is this agreement that the groups are particularly concerned about.
“We’re opposed to the whole of the TPPA because of all of the other things that it’s doing on copyright, on patents, on medicine. But this is one particular area we’ve decided to focus on today. “
The TPPA is not well understood by the public, and demonstrations such as theirs intend to draw attention to the issue, he says.
“Ordinary people do not like bullies. And when people realise this is a provision in an international agreement which would legitimise bullying on a huge scale, then people will go, well that’s not really fair.”
The next round of TPPA negotiations is taking place in Auckland, December 3-12.
Future protests planned by the group to mark this occasion include a march to Parliament on December 4, and a national day of action on December 8.