Isaac Aesili

Q&A | Isaac Aesili on why he’s saying no to the TPPA

The National Day of Action – Tell the Government: TPPA? No Deal! is happening this Saturday March 7 across New ZealandIt’s a nationwide protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) organised by the It’s Our Future action group.

There are innumerable reasons you should get behind this movement. The most cited criticism of the TPPA is that this agreement will effectively shift more power into the hands of multinational corporations and leave New Zealand more vulnerable to protecting our own environment, economy and future. According to Carrie Stoddart-Smith “the TPPA potentially guarantees rights to foreign investors in contravention of pre-existing international obligations to human rights and civil liberties”.

Evelyn has been following the TPPA since 2009, when she attended an Oxfam meeting in Auckland to discuss the impact TPPA could potentially have on small Pacific Island nations. It was at this meeting that she met Professor Jane Kelsey, a critical commentator regarding the TPPA. If you read some of Kelsey’s analysis, we reckon it will motivate you to get along to this weekend’s rally. After all, as she stated over a year ago, “It is a hell of a lot easier to stop the TPPA being concluded than trying to prevent it coming into force after the deal has been signed”.

Impolitikal is based in Manchester and Berlin, so we can’t get to the protest. Evelyn decided to ask our comrade in all matters concerning social justice, Isaac Aesili, a few questions about his perspective on the TPPA, and why he’ll be protesting alongside other New Zealanders this weekend.

Who do you consider to be the main actors and benefactors of the TPPA?
Firstly I am not an expert on the TPPA; it is difficult to be an expert on a deal that is being drafted in secret. I have been following the development of this treaty since I heard of its potentially far reaching implications a few years ago, especially its transfer of sovereign powers from the state / government to corporations. In my view the main actor behind this is the US, as a declining imperial power who is about to be superseded as the dominant economic nation by China. The US is doing all it can to secure its economic interests abroad, and this treaty is just one way in which the US is seeking to consolidate its dominance in the global economy. The other main actors are the other 11 nations in the Asia-Pacific Rim that are negotiating this treaty (including New Zealand). Although the main actors are states the main benefactors are corporations. In essence the TPPA is an agreement on how to restrict sovereign states from regulating corporations. Companies would have the right to sue governments in cases where the government passed a law that diminished their profits (e.g. anti-smoking laws). This is a direct transfer of power from democracy to corporate sovereignty. Its an alarming trend in which states are acting like agents for Big Business at the expense of the sovereign people.

If there is one issue you think all New Zealanders should know about the TPPA, what would it be?
The TPPA will make it harder for the people of New Zealand to control companies and the influence they have on our society. This agreement will make it more difficult for the government to promote health, protect the rights of workers and pass laws that protect the public interest when it conflicts with corporate interests. In addition it will diminish our democracy and its ability to protect the environment against corporate interests.

Why will you be protesting on Saturday?
New Zealand was one of the first countries to experiment with neoliberal economic policies in the 1980s. In 1981 child poverty rates were around 8% and now they are above 25%. I simply believe New Zealand, which is one of the richest nations in the world, should not allow one out of four children to live in poverty. If we don’t turn the tide we will become more like the US. Money will universally dictate where you can go, what you can do, how educated you are and if you can afford to be healthy.

I’m protesting on Saturday for our sovereignty and democracy. I’m protesting for the children and future generations who will have to live with the consequences of the decisions we are making now. I’m protesting because I believe people should come before profits. I believe human rights should be put before property rights and this agreement is a threat to the very basis of democracy.

I believe the TPPA would be a huge mistake if we were to sign it. I ask all those who are concerned about this to join with us on Saturday March 7 to show that we will not give up our sovereignty and that democracy should be protected from corporate exploitation.

The National Day of Action – Tell the Government: TPPA? No Deal! takes place tomorrow (Saturday March 7) across New Zealand. For location information and times go to


Isaac Aesili is an Auckland, NZ-based musician who plays with Sorceress and Latinaotearoa. Follow him on Twitter.