This year the New Zealand government will advance free trade discussions with the European Union, one of the largest world markets for produce, products and services from New Zealand.

Te Taumata chairman, Chris Karamea Insley, says the discussion with the EU is hugely important to Maori businesses.

“The issue of intellectual property – particularly geographic indicators – will be an important part of these discussions. GIs are a distinctive sign used to identify a product whose quality and reputation relate to a particular geographic location. Champagne sparkling wine, for example, can only be produced and legitimately marketed by producers from this part of France.”

Mr Insley noted the current dispute between Maori and other New Zealand honey producers and Australian producers over the use of the word manuka.

“This matter should have been properly sorted a long time ago. It’s likely a lengthy and very costly legal dispute will ensue to resolve this issue. Therefore, getting country-to-country agreement in free trade agreements, beginning with the EU, is so important for our Maori exporters.

“It’s the issue around protecting our rongoa, designs, words and products. If they can be properly preserved in free trade negotiations with Europe initially, and then all subsequent FTAs, it potentially preserves enormous value and wealth creation for Maori. It’s not subject to others around the world claiming Maori intellectual property.”

Mr Insley says the issues are incredibly complex and it is vitally important we get this right.

Te Taumata has assembled a world-class team of technical experts to do the detailed analysis on geographic indicators to be shared and discussed with Maori through regional hui. Recommendations will feed into the EU free trade negotiations later this year.

Lynell Tuffery Huria, a leading Maori lawyer and expert on trademarks and copyright in New Zealand and Australia, will work alongside Paris-based Dr Penelope Gibson, who has a PhD in commercialising Intellectual Property (IP). Dr Gibson has led major projects in England, contributing billions of euros to regional economies, and managed all copyright and IP for rock band, Pink Floyd.

“Our technical experts are complimented by a panel of Maori business exporters who will peer-review a draft of our experts’ advice. The issues will have far-reaching implications for not just the European Union negotiations but all subsequent negotiations,” says Mr Insley.

“Dialogue with Government’s lead trade negotiator at Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade has been incredibly constructive and helpful to getting this important matter advanced for our whanau.

“Having the best expert advice which will protect our taonga, while creating new market opportunities for our products around the world, will lead to high-paying new jobs, along with all the other benefits that will ripple back to whanau at home,” says Mr Insley.