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Source: New Zealand Government

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. This is a special time in our country. A little over a week ago, it was the anniversary of the signature by Māori and the British Crown of Te Tiriti O Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi), a founding document in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since then, much has of course changed, not least how we trade, and who we trade with. The Māori economy has, and continues to adjust to these winds of change and we as the Government continue to work hard to ensure that there are opportunities through international trade that match the significant aspiration and potential that exists in the Māori economy. 

The Māori economy today is valued at around $70 billion and is a hugely important contributor to New Zealand’s trade and economic well-being. One in four jobs in New Zealand depend on trade, and many iwi (tribes), hapu (subtribes) and whānau (extended families) are directly involved in, or supported by, export industries.  The New Zealand Government recognises that creating opportunities for New Zealand businesses internationally will always be a critical driver of Māori economic success and this is, therefore, at the heart of the Government’s trade agenda.

In 2019, then Associate Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Nanaia Mahuta (who is now our Foreign Minister), established a programme of work designed to support Māori Trade Opportunities: Aotearoa ki te Ao.  Its four strategic pou (pillars) are designed to ensure trade policy helps Māori succeed internationally.

The Prime Minister has asked me to now continue our work to help to position Māori to lead international efforts to expand the participation of indigenous people in global trade, including through the expansion of inclusive trade policies, rules and co-operation with our trade partners.

New Zealand has worked to develop a number of plurilateral initiatives on inclusive trade with like-minded partners to take these goals forward. Alongside Canada and Chile, we are members of the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) which specifically involves work to advance indigenous trade issues. Last year our three countries concluded the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement, which further promotes women’s economic empowerment, including that of mana wahine – a term which speaks to the unique power and spiritual essence of women. We also concluded the Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement, which seeks to promote broad cooperation on issues related to indigenous peoples and includes – but goes beyond – trade and economic matters. This area of work – trade and indigenous cooperation – will be an important focus for New Zealand going forward and we are reflecting on how to further advance this, including through our hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation – APEC – in 2021.

Connections to global markets for products and services are essential for Māori trade success, and pursuing an ambitious agenda of free trade agreements is a priority for New Zealand. Our goal is that these free trade agreements provide opportunities for Māori, and reflect the special relationship between Māori and the Crown. In order to do this, we are enhancing our research into Māori trade opportunities, to ensure that our negotiators are aware of – and therefore able to pursue – those things that matter most to the Māori economy. Furthermore, New Zealand’s free trade agreements contain a Treaty of Waitangi exception clause which, combined with other provisions, protects the government’s ability to adopt policies that fulfil its obligations to Māori, including under the Treaty of Waitangi.

We have also recently signed a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the ten members of ASEAN plus four other regional countries with which ASEAN has FTAs. RECEP anchors New Zealand in a region that is the engine room of the global economy. The 15 RCEP economies are home to almost a third of the world’s population and the agreement is projected to add $186 billion to the world economy and increase New Zealand’s GDP by around $2.0 billion. Similarly, we also recently signed an upgrade to our FTA with China, which sees a vast expansion of provisions originally negotiated in 2008 including improved market access while protecting our exporters’ future competitive positioning by allowing them to automatically benefit should China make new commitments to other countries in specific service sectors.

Last month, the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement between New Zealand, Singapore and Chile came into force, demonstrating the value we place on the digital economy and our strong focus on continuing to support Māori businesses to move up the value chain.  There is high interest by other trading partners in joining this young Agreement.

Alongside our critical commercial interests, New Zealand’s trade agenda is also focused on recognising kaupapa (principles or ideals) that are culturally important to Māori.  The Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (the ACCTS) unites a group of small, trade-dependent countries who believe trade measures and disciplines can make a contribution by helping to address the urgent climate crisis we are facing.   We have just undertaken the third round of negotiations towards this new Agreement, which continue despite the inability of our teams to meet in person.

All of the extensive work that I have described to advance Māori interests in international trade, economic and values issues is underpinned by our Government’s ‘Trade for All’ agenda. Trade for All is about ensuring trade policy recognises and respects those things that are important to New Zealanders and that shares the benefits of trade more widely. 

It is also a trade policy that fundamentally recognises the role of Māori in our trade policy. A central plank of Trade for All is continuing to work more closely with our treaty partners to ensure that Te Ao Māori, Tikanga Māori, and Matauranga Māori are reflected in our trade policy direction; that the strength of the Māori economy and its trade and investment potential are supported, and that trade delivers for Māori.

Trade for All has prioritised enhancing our engagement with Māori. In September 2019, MFAT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ‘Te Taumata’, a group of recognised leaders in Māori socio-economic and cultural development areas with significant networks across Māoridom.  This relationship enables MFAT’s to intensify its engagement with Māori on trade policy and deepen its understanding of Māori priorities within trade..
This complements MFAT’s existing structured engagement with Māori and reflects our shared motivation to uphold Te Tiriti’s underlying principle of partnership. To date, Te Taumata has held a number a regional hui (meetings) on a wide range of topics.

In 2020, following the recommendations of the Trade for All Board, we significantly expanded the pace and nature of our engagement on trade with the public.  Trade officials in New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) undertook 280 separate pieces of engagement on trade issues last year, stepping up rather than stepping back from engagement right through lockdown and in the months following.  A comprehensive plan to engage with Māori on our current FTA negotiations with the UK was launched last year – complementing existing strategies developed when we began FTA negotiations with the EU in 2018 – and involving multiple Government agencies. A range of detailed discussions were held with a number of Māori groups and representatives on their interests in a NZ-UK FTA, including on issues such as intellectual property and trade and the environment, and several webinars relevant to a Māori audience were hosted by trade negotiators . The establishment of a new consultative mechanism, named Ngā Toki Whakarururanga, was agreed to with a group of Māori claimants to our Waitangi Tribunal. This mechanism gives a further voice for Māori, in addition to the existing arrangement with Te Taumata.

Despite the urgency with which the Government needed to act to manage the immediate impacts of COVID-19, the principles of Trade for All underpinned the development of new initiatives and policies and the communication of those to the public, including, mostly recently, the Trade Recovery Strategy.

Launched in June 2020, the Trade Recovery Strategy helps put New Zealand in the best possible position to recover from the impacts of the global pandemic and to seize new opportunities for exports and investment. During the height of the pandemic, the focus has been on protecting trade flows and supply chains to ensure that New Zealanders can access essential goods like medicines and PPE, and that our goods continue to reach our trading partners.  Māori are more likely to be hit first, hardest and longest because of over-representation in industries that are vulnerable to boom and bust, like construction and international tourism.  The next phase of New Zealand’s response is recalibrating our trade policy for a new international environment.  The Government is working closely with exporters to ensure the strategy reflects their needs and priorities.

The strategy has four pillars: retooling support for exporters; reinvigorating international trade architecture; refreshing key trade relationships and building NZ’s strategic economic resilience. These four inter-related components are underpinned by the Trade for All agenda, as New Zealand responds to the social and economic well-being impacts of COVID-19. 

These are no doubt challenging times. The global health and economic consequences of COVID-19 will be with us for some time yet and New Zealand will not be immune. As a trading nation we rely on international customers to purchase our goods and services. This Government is committed to partnering with Māori in a manner which positions New Zealand globally as an attractive place to trade with and invest in, and supports the trade aspirations of Māori across the economy.

I look forward to supporting this work to lift opportunities for Māori – and indigenous peoples throughout the world – and to continue to grow the voice of Māori in the development of Aotearoa New Zealand’s international trade agenda.

MIL OSI