Māori trade group Te Taumata is applauding what it understands could be an “imminent” Agreement in Principle for the pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Aotearoa New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Te Taumata chairman, Chris Karamea Insley says its group is aware officials from both countries are working hard to finalise the agreement, which could be a “game changer” for Māori businesses and wider communities.

“A new FTA with the UK represents a massive opportunity for Māori businesses to diversify into a large and lucrative market with a population of more than 70 million people. It can be particularly challenging, and expensive, for Māori exporters to expand beyond traditional markets, so this provides a significant opportunity.

“Having said that, from a Māori trade point of view, we expect to see much more movement on the removal of trade barriers such as tariffs and environmentally harmful subsidies  in the primary sector. The majority of these barriers should be removed immediately, particularly in sectors where Māori have significant interests. Otherwise the timeframes for their elimination short be short, with meaningful access guaranteed for exporters from day one.

“Any agreement that retains them is simply not free trade.”

Mr Insley says Aotearoa New Zealand has been a global innovator in recent decades with the agreement of trade agreements that benefit core trading interests, while ensuring climate change advances, digital technologies and the honouring of indigenous rights.

“Significantly, we understand that New Zealand has tabled an indigenous chapter proposal and we applaud and welcome this important development. It is a perfect example of the innovation that New Zealand has demonstrated in its approach to international trade in recent times. We urge the United Kingdom to accept these proposals so we can develop an even closer relationship.

“We hope that any challenges can be overcome – and within a short timeframe – so that both countries can benefit and move beyond the impact of COVID-19.”

Mr Insley says the pending FTA with the United Kingdom presents a rare opportunity to acknowledge the history between Māori and the United Kingdom.

“The outcome of this FTA could have a long-lasting, positive impact for Māori if our economic, social, cultural and environmental interests are taken into consideration,” Mr Insley says.

“We know there is an appetite for Māori products and our expertise across multiple sectors, and for inviting investment into growing our local economy. Ensuring Te Tiriti o Waitangi forms a part of New Zealand’s approach to trade is imperative and its inclusion should be congratulated.

“We are very much looking forward to seeing the final outcome and expect to see officials from both sides working hard towards this end.

“We have hosted a series of regional hui across the country over the last 12 months and we have heard a clear call from our whānau that trade is important, as it means jobs for whānau at home.