Long running talks to hammer out a free trade agreement between 11 Asia Pacific countries have resumed in Auckland, sparking criticism and protest.
Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) say the high
level negotiations are undemocratic, and warn promised benefits
will come at a cost.
Placard-waving protesters made no secret of their opposition to high levels talks that have brought 500 international trade negotiators to New Zealand.
"It's being held in secret," said Robert Reid of First union.
"I mean this is the umpteenth meeting that's happened and we still don't know what's in the agreement."
A group of international experts in fields including public health, consumer rights and labour say they have been locked out of the discussions until a "stakeholder" day scheduled for Friday.
Law professor Jane Kelsey said the group of experts is "locked out of the entire Sky City Convention Centre for all 10 days except the so-called stakeholder day on Friday."
"We won't get to see the text of what they're negotiating until it's a done deal at the end of how many more rounds? It's hardly a democracy," Kelsey said.
"It is patently obvious that our Government is actively attempting to block us from having private interactions with negotiators who have their own concerns or want more information in areas where they lack expertise, or are simply polite enough to respond to requests for meetings," she said.
Green Party leader Russel Norman called for the Government to
act at once to open up the negotiations.
"The current restrictions put in place by the New Zealand Government confirm suspicions that the TPP negotiations are inherently anti-democratic," Norman said.
"These negotiations are being carried out by unelected officials yet the decisions they are making have the ability to affect the way current and future governments can make laws."
Prime Minister John Key told TV ONE's Breakfast the TPP "is totally democratic because it has to go through Parliament and political parties have to for for it or vote against it."
Fears over tariffs, medicines
The Auckland meeting is the 15th that has tackled the complex
issue of free trade between New Zealand, the US, Australia,
Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada and
The aim is freeing up trade in the Asia Pacific region. Thirty eight percent of New Zealand's trade is with these countries, and four of them are among our top 10 trading partners, including our biggest and closest, Australia.
But Australian and New Zealand farmers are worried that removing the tariffs put on their agricultural products will end up in the "too hard" basket.
They have united to demand a clear timetable.
"We want comprehensive reduction in tariffs. We want certainty regarding timelines. We certainly don't want to leave things to drift," said Bruce Wills of Federated Farmers.
Opponents also fear a deal will leave New Zealand's drug-buying agency Pharmac vulnerable to pressure from large pharmaceutical companies.
Kelsey said: "They want to be able to have a seat at the table of some of the decision making, and effectively to bust the cap that gives Pharmac real negotiating power."
The TPP negotiations have been widely opposed by anti-globalisation activists and academics over intellectual property demands made by the US and provisions that would let companies sue governments if policy decisions erode their profits.
There will be more opposition as the talks continue into next
week, with rallies in Wellington and Auckland over the next few