TPPA No Good for Maori

Press Release Te Wharepora Hou
 Te Wharepora Hou, a group of Maori women based in Auckland, supports civil society groups from Australia and New Zealand that are opposing the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Similar free trade agreements have had a devastating impact on the rights & lives of Indigenous peoples around the world.  Indigenous peoples have been criminalised  and rights to their lands and resource have been ignored.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is colonisation by corporation.  Maori and Pacific Island communities have already borne the  brunt of  neo-liberal economic restructuring  in the 80’s and 1990’s.

The TPPA will intensify and increase these negative economic impacts In our communities and as a result are hugely over-represented in all negative indices. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)  is part of the neo liberal structural adjustment programme to diminish and extinguish Indigenous rights forever.

The TPP represents a significant and; disruptive challenge to Maori.

 As wahine Maori, our long and deeply-held traditional values and understandings of collectivity, of manakitanga , of kaitiakitanga (Caring for Earth Mother), for Tangaroa (god of the sea) and for their children, is in direct opposition to what is being proposed in the TPPA. The New Zealand government does no have the right to negotiate away our Treaty rights and  our rights as Indigenous peoples. 
The selling off of our mokopuna and their future must stop.

You can download a fact sheet “Maori, Treaty and the TPPA” here:


What’s a TPPA?

Another of those international treaties that would give massive amounts of power to big foreign companies and allow them to enforce their rights against the government – what Maori have been struggling to secure for over 160 years!

Why is this one special?

First, it’s huge. Eight countries are involved. The most important, the US, acts for the benefit of its mega-firms. It will try to dictate what is discussed and what is agreed. The others countries are Australia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and NZ.
  Second, the TPPA is like an octopus whose tentacles will reach into every aspect of life – land, culture, broadcasting, medicines, water, mining, jobs, finance, prisons, …

What kind of treaty is it?

The formal name is the Trans-Pacific Partnership and they call it a free trade treaty. But it’s really a treaty that guarantees foreign investors extensive rights and restricts the kinds of policies and laws that governments can have in the future.

It sounds like the MAI that we fought off years ago!

It is – but bigger and worse.

Are there particular issues for indigenous peoples?

Indigenous communities in Chile and Peru have already been dispossessed and criminalised as a result of their existing free trade agreements with the US.

In northern Chile, Diaguita communities have resisted the FTA-related expansion of mining operations that are located on their traditional lands, take ancestral waters and threaten the environment. Further South, the Mapuche have faced expansion of pine forestry, hydro dams, fishing and salmon farms along the rivers and foreshores, without proper consultation or participation in benefits. Their protests have been criminalised by the Chilean state using police brutality involving torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment affecting community members. The state has prosecuted hundreds of Mapuche activists, accusing them of ordinary or terrorist offences listed in the Anti-terrorist Law; 50 are in prison charged with terrorist crimes.

In Peru, the government issued a mass of laws that threatened indigenous peoples’ lands and resources as part of implementing the US–Peru FTA. The laws aimed to break up indigenous communities so foreign investors could set up huge private estates on Amazonian forest lands and produce biofuels. In 2008 the Amazonian indigenous peoples in the Interethnic Association of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP) mobilised against these decrees. Some were overturned, but there were new protests when the government broke its promises about overturning others. After several days of road blockade, the government ordered the police to clear the roads. Clashes ended with 34 identified deaths, including 24 police officers and 10 people from the indigenous communities; a hundred civilians were injured by firearms.
(see José Aylwin, ‘The TPPA and Indigenous Peoples: Lessons from Latin America’ in Jane Kelsey ed. No Ordinary Deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Bridget Williams Books)

Are there specific impacts for Aotearoa?

Lots – some examples are …
Water companies run privatised water all around the world, often with disastrous impacts on local communities. Rodney Hide is pushing a new law through Parliament that will let these mega-water corporations run the water supply of cities and towns throughout Aotearoa for 30+ years. We saw the human cost of privatised electricity in 2009 when the Muliana family couldn’t pay the bill and Mrs Muliana’s oxygen machine was cut off. Tragedies like that happen with failed water privatisations all over the world, forcing governments to cancel the private contracts and take back control. Under a TPPA foreign water companies are likely to get powers to sue the government for multi-millions in compensation in a secret international court if it did that. Bolivia and Argentina have faced crippling cases that drag on for years.

Another example affected the foreign companies that are getting licenses for exploration and mining on Maori land or land subject to claims that aren’t yet settled. Often the hapu aren’t being fully consulted before licenses are issued and have no real say. The government hasn’t developed proper rules yet about what these companies can and can’t do or ways to hold them accountable for disasters. Under a TPPA the government’s hands could be tied - it could be stopped from limiting or banning certain mining operations or from introducing new restrictions that undermine the profitability of a mining company from one of the TPPA countries. Because the law is complicated, it is easy for the companies to tie governments up in knots with threats of long, costly law suits in secret foreign courts.

A TPPA could make it hard, even impossible to require plain package cigarettes and make tobacco companies contribute to the health costs of smoking related diseases.

Compulsory quotas for Maori - or even New Zealand – music are already prohibited cos they breach the rules of ‘trade’ treaties. A TPPA would mean more limits in favour of Hollywood.

Stricter intellectual property laws could threaten control over taonga that the WAI 262 claim is trying to protect and stop the government introducing new safeguards.

Medicines will become more expensive if the big US drug companies have their way, so only rich people with health insurance can afford the medicines they need.

Isn’t there some special exception for the Treaty of Waitangi in NZ’s FTAs?

That doesn’t guarantee Maori any rights. It says the government may take action if it believes is required to implement the Treaty. Other parties to the agreement can still challenge aspects of the government’s action.

How do we find out what’s happening with these negotiations?

The 4th round of negotiations started in Auckland on 6 December 2010. We don’t get to know what’s on the table because the negotiations are secret. If the government thinks it’s so good for us it should stop hiding behind closed doors and let us know what trade-offs they’re proposing in our name and justify them – before the negotiations go any further.

Who is consulted about these negotiations?

The only people who really matter and have the inside story are big business. Presumably that includes Maori entrepreneurs involved in forestry, energy, fishing, property development, exploration, private prisons, private water schemes … .

What’s the Maori Party’s position on the TPPA?

Hone has said he opposes it.  The Party itself hasn’t shown its hand. In recent times they have been split in voting on FTAs –  for example, on the NZ-Malaysia FTA Pita, Tariana and Te Ururoa voted for and Hone and Rahui voted against. Time to get off the fence …

For more information see www.tppwatch.org

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