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Pacific rim nations sign TPP free-trade agreement

A comprehensive trade deal has been inked by 12 Pacific nations at a ceremony in New Zealand. Angry protestors have swarmed the streets of Auckland to voice concern over environmental and sovereignty issues.

Trade representatives from 12 nations came together in Auckland, New Zealand, on Thursday to sign an international trade pact more than eight years in the making.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

aims to reduce tariffs and remove hurdles from supply chains.

The signatories were the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand. Other nations with Pacific coastline who have expressed interest in joining include Colombia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia.

Activists condemn agreement

While governments and business have hailed the free trade agreement, activists in fields ranging from health to internet freedom, as well as trade unions and environmentalists, have condemned the TPP in no uncertain terms. The major concern amongst the deal's detractors is the power it provides to industrial concerns over humane ones, the strong environmental impact, and worries that it may drive income inequality.

Hundreds of protestors across Auckland on Thursday formed the most recent in a string of protests against the TPP going back years. The demonstrators blocked important arteries in and out of the city, including the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

The deal must now be ratified by individual parliaments. This may be unlikely in the US with a presidential campaign underway and a Congress hostile to President Barack Obama. Obama met with Republican leaders on Tuesday in a bid to get their support for the scheme, but House Speaker Paul Ryan left the meeting saying his party still had "a number of concerns" about the pact.

Some of the resistance to the TPP has also come from within Obama's own Democratic Party. Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took to Twitter to voice his disapproval:

Other Democrats have echoed trade unions' fears that the scope of the agreement is simply too big and infringes on national sovereignty in business negotiations.

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