Freeland in New Zealand to sign TPP, Māori describe it as a "death sentence" for Indigenous rights


As Canada's trade minister Chrystia Freeland travels to Auckland to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Indigenous peoples in New Zealand are saying the 'trade deal' is a "death sentence" for their rights.

A media release notes, "Tangata whenua [a Māori term of the indigenous peoples of New Zealand] are strongly opposed to the signing of the [TPP] which will be held in Auckland [on Feb. 4]. ...The New Zealand government has by-passed indigenous involvement at every level. This complete lack of consultation also contravenes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and this government has no right to sign this trade deal without our free,prior and informed consent. 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."

That media release adds, "The [TPP] is part of the neo-liberal structural adjustment programme to diminish and extinguish Indigenous rights forever. The TPP will intensify and increase negative economic impacts in our communities. Already Maori are extensively over-represented in all negative indices. ...The New Zealand government does no have the right to negotiate away our rights under Te Tiriti [the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi in which the British recognised Māori ownership of their lands] and our rights as Indigenous peoples."

Radio New Zealand has reported, "Ngāti Whātua o Ōrakei, the mana whenua [local people who have ‘demonstrated authority’ over land or territory in a particular area] in Auckland central where the signing is to take place, has refused to participate because it believes the multinational trade deal will undermine the country's sovereignty. Five more Auckland iwi [translated as peoples, nations or tribes] are refusing to perform the Māori welcome, as are all of Auckland's usual haka [a traditional war cry or dance] groups. ...With just four days until the TPP signing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is organising Thursday's event, will not say whether any group had agreed to perform."

The most recent news report tell us, "The iwi organisation performing the powhiri [Māori welcoming ceremony] at the signing of the TPP say they are happy to welcome guests but does not mean they support the trade deal. Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua will conduct the formalities of the powhiri in Auckland on Thursday, amid reports that other iwi have declined to do it."

The Council of Canadians has called on the Trudeau government to hold consultations on the TPP with Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Hupacasath, a 300-member nation located on Vancouver Island, has argued that the Harper government failed to consult First Nations before signing the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Act (FIPA) in 2012 as required by law. They say that FIPA, notably its investor-state provision, could be used to override Indigenous rights and give the balance of power in questions of resource management to corporations rather than affected communities. The Trans-Pacific Partnership contains a similar investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision.

We believe in a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples based on recognition of their right to full, prior and informed consent.