TPP signed amid loud protest

New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay signs the TPP (Patrick Gower / Newshub)
New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay signs the TPP (Patrick Gower / Newshub)

They came, they saw, they signed.

But the inking of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) wasn't without major public anger and outcry in Auckland, as thousands gathered in the central city today to protest the deal's signing.

TPP signed amid loud protest

United States trade representative Mike Froman with Prime Minister John Key (Patrick Gower / Newshub)

Trade ministers from the dozen Pacific Rim countries, including New Zealand, descended on the SkyCity Convention Centre this morning to ceremonially sign what is considered one of the biggest trade deals in history.

"The Trans Pacific Partnership ultimately represents a giant vote of confidence for future prosperity for the economy and our people. Today is a very, very important day for the 12 countries involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership," says Prime Minister John Key.

"TPP will provide much better access for goods and services to more than 800 million people across the TPP countries, which made up 36 per cent of global GDP," he said.

"TPP is our biggest-ever free-trade deal and is estimated to boost our economy by at least $2.7 billion a year by 2030 - that will help to diversify our economy and mean more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealand."

Mr Key said it was New Zealand's first free-trade agreement with five of the TPP countries, including the largest and third-largest economies in the world - the United States and Japan.

"As a country, we won't get rich selling to ourselves," he said.

"Instead, we need to build new global markets for our products and services, and TPP will help make that happen."

Mr Key said other countries had already signalled an interest in joining the TPP, which could lead to even greater regional economic integration.

"A more prosperous and therefore secure region is in all of our interests."

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb was the first to sign the document, with New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay the last to put pen to paper.

It represents 40 percent of the world's GDP, opens New Zealand up to 800 million more consumers and will reportedly be worth $2.7 billion to the country's economy by 2030 -- just 1 percent of GDP.

TPP signed amid loud protest

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb first to sign TPP (Patrick Gower / Newshub)

But that didn't seem to matter to the thousands who came bearing banners, chants, slogans and facepaint.

It wasn't just the TPP in their sights though, with many taking the opportunity to voice their concerns over a number of issues, including deep sea oil drilling, zero-hours contracts and the need to stop people from lying.

Groups opposed to the TPP cite a number of concerns, including the secrecy in which the negotiations were done, its effects on government drug buying agency Pharmac, the erosion of the country's sovereignty and the ability of corporations to sue the Government.

Several protests were planned in the lead-up to this morning's official ceremony at the SkyCity Convention Centre, including a "family friendly" protest at Auckland's Aotea Square.

Another group, calling itself Real Choice, organised an event leaving from Aotea Square which aimed to create a "TPP-Free Zone" by "holding Federal St for as long as possible".

The main entrance to the convention centre is on Federal St, although there is another entrance via Albert St.

But the precinct around the convention centre was smothered with police and security, as well as a number of other security measures including fences and an orange barricade outside the building's main entrance.

Even though the deal has been signed though, there is still more work to be done, with Mr McClay estimating it could take up to a year to get through New Zealand's Parliament.

It is thought it could take up to two years to be ratified by all 12 countries.

US representative Michael Froman says he is confident it can be ratified in his country, despite the possibility it won't get through Congress.

The US senate has signalled to Obama it's not happy with the agreement.

And Canada representative Chrystia Freeland says there will be a full study and consultation before the deal is ratified.

Ardent opponent of the deal, Auckland University Professor of Law Jane Kelsey, says she doubts the agreement will pass the US Congress and has urged protesters to keep fighting the deal.

"For us it does make a difference and from what I hear from people internationally, the opposition in New Zealand is the strongest of anywhere."

Newshub. / NZN