Māori have much to celebrate in today’s announcement that New Zealand and Britain have finalised their Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Te Taumata Chairman Chris Karamea Insley says.
“This outcome is the result of a sustained effort of face to face dialogue between our Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, Trade Damien Oconnor and lead trade negotiator Vangelis Vitalis as well as Rino Tirikatene over the past 12 months.
“For the first time as Māori, we feel we have genuinely been part of the negotiation discussion to represent directly the interests of our people.
“I acknowledge the leadership of our ministers and lead trade negotiator for the kaha and allowing our Māori voice to be heard,” Mr Insley says.
Mr Insley says Te Taumata is thrilled negotiators have reached an agreement that could, in good access alone, result in hundreds of new jobs and more than $13 million of additional GDP for the Māori economy.
Independent economist John Ballingall, of Sense Partners, who was commissioned by Te Taumata to provide an analysis on the agreement, describes it as an “impressive achievement by the New Zealand government on behalf of Māori”.
He also notes that with almost 50,000 Māori workers in export industries and New Zealand’s current heavy reliance on trade with China, this new agreement with Britain “will give exporters the opportunity to pivot towards a high-income economy that values our sustainable, high-quality products”.
The new agreement also includes a specific Indigenous Trade chapter – the first of its kind in any trade agreement – as well as elimination of all tariffs on New Zealand exports to the UK and a focus on environmental sustainability and climate change.
“Māori businesses have played a significant role in New Zealand’s post-lockdown recovery and this news will come as a big motivator, particularly for businesses feeling the impacts of COVID-19.
Mr Insley says it is also important to note the agreement has been designed to promote Trade For All concepts that deliver wellbeing improvements for whānau – not just bottom lines and shareholders.
“Access to capital through foreign direct investment will also be crucial for Māori and will open a number of doors that have previously been closed to us.”
Just as significantly, the NZ/UK FTA will set a precedent for indigenous interests in future agreements, Mr Insley says.
“This modern, forward-looking trade agreement with the UK will truly be game changing for Māori trade interests and will set a new standard for inclusion of indigenous interests in any future deals.
“Recognising the value of Māori leadership, mātauranga Māori and the Te Ao Māori world view has been specifically stipulated in the agreement, as has commitments to ensure equal opportunity to trade and investment for Māori.”
Mr Insley says the NZ/UK FTA has been a joint effort and has taken a high level of expertise and insight to meet at a mutually beneficial point.
“I would also like to acknowledge the leadership of British High Commissioner, Laura Clarke, who has been open and willing to acknowledge the importance of including the indigenous chapter, and ensuring the agreement, as a whole, reflects Māori values and interests.”
Mr Insley says while reaching this stage in the negotiations is commendable, there is more work to be done.
“Te Taumata will continue its work, bringing to life the benefits of today’s announcement in a practical way for our people, while also supporting New Zealand’s trade-led recovery from COVID-19.”