Compiled by Bing-sheng Lee

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been officially signed at a ceremony at SkyCity in Auckland, New Zealand today. Dignitaries from the 12 partnership countries gathered at 11:30 am local time to put pen to paper, a major step toward stronger economic cooperation between the nations.

The TPP is a free trade agreement involving 12 nations connected by the Pacific Ocean designed to free up trade and investment between them. The countries involved are New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United States, Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Singapore, Peru and Chile.

The agreement has been contentious for several years in New Zealand, mainly because of the secrecy of the deal, lack of public consultation and fears that New Zealand’s sovereignty could be diminished.

A large protest group came together and set out through the streets to SkyCity this morning. Dozens of police officers were outside the venue, where several hundred protesters remained.

Smaller and roving groups of protesters staged sit-ins at motorway access points, disrupting traffic in the Auckland’s central business district. Some people sat down on the streets, blocking entrances and exits to the southern and north-western motorway. Anti-TPP chants could be heard echoing around the city, as well as horns honking in support.

A protest organizer, Hone Harawira, says there is still a message to send, despite the TPP agreement being signed.

“We don’t accept it. We don’t like the fact that you didn’t get to see it, I didn’t get to see it, our children didn’t get to see it before they signed it off," he says.

Harawira adds, ”Even if it’s being signed today, it won’t be ratified until it’s ratified by every government in the TPP and if it isn’t, it’s thrown out anyway, so the fight continues today and forever.”

Mel Caldwell, co-organizer of the Tauranga TPPA Action Network, an anti-TPP action group, questions the need for secrecy and the lack of public consultation if the deal is as good as the government claims it is.

“They keep calling it a free-trade agreement, but there is no free in corporate trading and New Zealand will have to make big sacrifices in order to be part of the club,” says Caldwell.

New Zealand Herald reports, in general, the trade deal is expected to increase the wealth of New Zealand by boosting exports into powerful economies.

An upside generated by the agreement is an increase in opportunities for New Zealand’s kiwi businesses to sell their products to markets in the Pacific Rim countries without paying tariffs.

Todd McClay, trade minister of New Zealand, says the signing is a momentous occasion for all countries in the trade pact.

McClay says, ”The 12 countries representing 800 million people, almost 40% of the world GDP, to come together to focus on an agreement that will provide benefits to all of our citizens is a significant achievement.”

Photo Credit: SumOfUs, CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit: SumOfUs, CC BY 2.0

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says that New Zealand is proud to be involved in the process.

He says, ”TPP liberalizes trade, and makes it easier to do trade across the region. That’s overwhelmingly in the best interest of our countries and our citizens."

Some of the downsides of the agreement include the possibility of corporations suing the New Zealand Government if they feel the deal isn’t being upheld properly.

Initiated in 2008, the TPP agreement to cut tariffs, improve access to markets, and set common ground on labor, environmental standards, and intellectual property protections was finally reached in October 2015, after seven years of negotiations.

After the formal signing, the countries have two years to ratify the agreement and pass domestic legislation to enable it.

Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Colombia and other countries have shown interest in joining TPP in the future. So far Taiwan has signed economic cooperation agreements with Singapore and New Zealand, and the government is now reviewing if our current regulations meet international standards. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to explain to TPP members Taiwan’s determination in trade liberalization and request joining the second round of negotiations in TPP.

Edited by Olivia Yang

“Protests will disappoint Aucklanders – PM” (Radio New Zealand)
“Tauranga group to protest Auckland TPP signing” (FreshPlaza)
“TPP protesters shut down central Auckland as ministers sign controversial deal” (NZ Herald)
“TPP signing: A ‘gracious’ welcome, then down to business” (NZ Herald)
“Dunedin protest as TPP signed” (Otago Daily News)
“TPP – what you should know” (Otago Daily News)
“12 Nations Reach Consensus in TPP Negotiation, But What About Taiwan?” (The News Lens)