Trade Minister Tim Groser says yesterday's national rallies against the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations will not change the Government's approach to the international deal.
Thousands of people marched in demonstations against the proposed Pacific-wide free trade deal, with marches and rallies in 21 cities and towns.
Mr Groser dismissed the rallies as a combination of people being misled about the deal and hardcore protesters who had opposed every trade agreement New Zealand had signed.
"How do these people think New Zealand can earn a living in this world? Because nobody out there thinks they owe New Zealand a living.
"The reality is that if we didn't have these trade agreements and were shut out of markets, this country would be the Greece of the South Pacific."
In Auckland, organisers estimated 10,000 people marched down Queen Street and gathered outside the US consulate in Customs St East, chanting slogans.
Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey said yesterday's turnout showed the Government how unpopular the deal was.
"I'm no good at numbers, I'm just really happy so many people turned up in this lousy weather, not just in Auckland but throughout the country...I think the turnout has put paid to any suggestions by the trade minister that people are politically irrelevant for opposing this deal," she said.
Some groups involved in the rallies criticised the government for the secrecy involved in the international trade negotiations.
But Mr Groser said it would be impossible to reach the necessary compromises if the discussions were not held in confidence.
"It is literally impossible to take a workmanlike approach to sorting through people's concerns about change if every single detail is out there on the public domain - and then you get your lobbies all lined up ... 'no you can't agree to that word' and so on ...
"Compromise is necessary, compromise requires discretion, discretion is the handmaiden of progress in everything in life that I know of."