Pressure continues in NZ for trade based on social and environmental justice

22 October 2018: A livestream of the conference “What an Alternative and Progressive Trade Strategy Should Look Like” at Auckland University got around 17,000 online viewers this week, as the push against agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP-11”) continues.

The hui, a Māori word meaning gathering or conference, asserted that trade should be an instrument used to improve the living conditions of people and relationships between them, not an end in itself.

The conference took place the same week that the Australian Government ratified the TPP-11, which NZ is also about to ratify. As in Australia, advocacy groups in NZ struggled against the trade deal for years, asserting it will reduce democratic rights, damage workers conditions and the environment, while increasing the rights of global corporations.

“There is a strong sense that New Zealand’s existing approach are out of sync with those of our communities and people. In particular, they fail to recognise the benefits for all from Maori values sourced in te Tiriti o Waitangi and tikanga Maori”, said the main organiser law professor Jane Kelsey, who also writes on the subject.

The conference’s speakers advocated for “real alternatives not tinkering or incremental change.”These included learning from and respecting First Nations culture, valuing ecological sustainability, building substitutes to digital monopolies like Facebook, strengthening local procurement rules, supporting local communities, demanding a living wage for all workers, and prioritising international agreements on climate change, health and human rights above trade deals.

The huge interest shown in the conference is indicative of public pressure in NZ against agreements like the TPP-11 and in favour of progressive alternatives, just as there have been calls for alternative progressive trade policies in Australia.