activist models annabel liddell and imogen watt are leading new zealand’s fight for fair trade
Image by Karen Inderbitzen-Waller and Delphine Avril Planqueel
In New Zealand the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, or TPPA, is one of the biggest issues today. Set to be the biggest free trade deal in history, in which 12 Asia-Pacific countries have been negotiating in secret since 2005, the TPPA combines a myriad of concerns.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has sold it as a way to deepen economic ties, boost investment, and open up trade between New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, United States, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada. But many have criticised the agreement for hiding behind the excuse of trade to make it easier for huge foreign corporations to bully and influence governments. Former Green Party leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons called the move, "the most anti-democratic thing that has ever happened in my lifetime."
In opposition she and her supporters have marched in the streets, signed petitions, and written impassioned posts on social media. At the forefront of the movement are musician, model and medical student Annabel Liddell and model and health sciences student Imogen Watt. Armed with hand painted signs and intelligent debate, the 20-year-old best friends are banding together with a growing number of New Zealanders to say NO to the TPPA. They explain what it is, why they care, and why you should too.
What about the TPPA prompted you to protest in the streets and on social media?
Annabel Liddell: I became aware of the TPPA when I heard about its impacts on access to health care and restriction of health policies. As a medical student that directly affects my future. When I heard about the TPPA I felt morally obliged to stand up and say something about it. It felt personal.
Imogen Watt: I've been involved in the anti-TPPA movement since I was about 17. Growing up my mum always told me to educate myself. So after I heard about this document I did as much research as I could. This year I made a pact to myself to do everything that I could to make the world a better place.
How do you think the TPPA will affect you?
Annabel: I am Māori and have close connections to my Iwi and culture. Improving on the health inequalities that exist for Māori people is a major goal of mine. I feel a lot of inequities stem back to when we were colonised. Although there have been discrepancies, we do have the Treaty of Waitangi that was aimed at protecting New Zealand's culture and people. It is a constitutional document and should be honoured. But the TPPA allows for corporate overriding of that sacred agreement. It disgusts me.
Imogen: I am worried about the impact this will have on medicine availability, internet freedom, and the fact the Treaty of Waitangi would no longer be a valid document. I'm Māori and that disgusts me.
What have you learned from getting involved?
Imogen: It has put me in touch with incredibly intelligent, motivated individuals who want to make the world a better place. That's one of the reasons why I love Annabel—we have such an intelligent friendship. The anti-TPPA movement isn't a bunch of discontent, dreadlocked hippies who are like, "We want freedom!" This is something that is going to actually kill New Zealanders. If it gets passed, lifesaving medicines won't be available. I don't want to study for 10 years to become a doctor only to watch people fall through the cracks of this policy. The more I learn about the TPPA the angrier I get.
Do you have any other forms of protest planned?
Annabel: At this point I think the main thing is making people aware of what the TPPA is. More than saying, "This is bad," we want to communicate that, "This is what it is, you need to take notice of this and read about it and have an opinion on it, because it is our future." A lot of people are like, "Oh, I'm too busy, I can't think about that,' and then it's too late!"