May 11, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views


5 min read

Whats 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, its 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 its 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 USPeru 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 Jos 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. We saw the human cost of privatised electricity in 2009 when the Muliana family couldnt pay the bill and Mrs Mulianas 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 a foreign water company is likely to get powers to sue the government in a secret international court for multi-millions in compensation 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 arent yet settled. Often the hapu arent being fully consulted before licenses are issued and have no real say. The government hasnt developed proper rules yet about what these companies can and cant do or ways to hold them accountable for disasters. Under a TPPA the governments 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 mining company that comes 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.

Isnt there some special exception for the Treaty of Waitangi in NZs FTAs?

That doesnt 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 governments action.

How do we find out whats happening with these negotiations?

The 4th round of negotiations started in Auckland on 6 December 2010. We dont get to know whats on the table because the negotiations are secret. If the government thinks its so good for us it should stop hiding behind closed doors and let us know what trade-offs theyre 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

Whats the Maori Partys position on the TPPA?

Hone has said he opposes it. The Party itself hasnt 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

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