An estimated 15,000 people demonstrated through the streets of Auckland, New Zealand, on 4 February, as ministers from 12 countries met in the city to sign a divisive trade deal.
Joining the march was IndustriALL Global Union’s New Zealand affiliate, FIRST Union, which has been at the forefront of a six-year campaign to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
The far-reaching free trade deal was agreed upon in October last year between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam after years of covert negotiations.
“Now that the text of the agreement has been made publicly available, it is clear that the deal is designed to serve the interests of large corporations and powerful states, not the interests of people or the planet,” said Robert Reid, First Union’s general secretary.
The deal’s controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions give multinational corporations the ability to seek billion dollar damages from states in cases where domestic laws or policies affect their profitability.
“The TPPA undermines national sovereignty and poses a severe threat to democracy, the environment and workers’ livelihoods,” said IndustriALL general secretary, Jyrki Raina.
“TPPA will lead to higher inequality, lower wages and increased precarious work as trade barriers are removed and the pressures of competition take a bitter toll.”
Across the Pacific Ocean, IndustriALL affiliate Unifor, has serious concerns about the impact TPPA will have on Canada’s auto industry. During the TPPA negotiations, Canada’s former Conservative government gave major concessions on tariff eliminations and other matters, which will leave the country’s car industry vulnerable to job and investment losses.
Following the signing, the agreement must be ratified at the national level by the 12 states within two years. However, if at the end of these two years, the agreement is ratified by six nations representing 85 per cent of the combined GDP of the original signatories, it can still enter into force. If the United States, which represents the largest share of combined GDP does not ratify, the TPPA is unlikely to go ahead.
IndustriALL affiliates in the US are also taking action. The United Steelworkers is organizing a series of town hall meetings about TPPA as part of their campaign, while IAM is also putting pressure on Congress to reject the trade agreement.
See the joint statement of the Asia-Pacific regional offices of four global unions. regarding TPPA.
Read the resolution on TPPA adopted by IndustriALL’s Executive Committee in December.
See the ITUC statement on TPPA.