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Our relationship with the United Kingdom
New Zealand’s relationship with the United Kingdom is deep, broad-ranging and strong. We are connected by history dating back to the voyages of Captain James Cook to the Pacific in the 1770s, British colonisation, New Zealand participation in World Wars I and II, and significant waves of British immigration.
We are connected constitutionally. King Charles III is New Zealand’s Head of State, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840, New Zealand’s founding document, was signed between the British Crown and Māori. New Zealand’s system of government is also modelled on the British Westminster parliamentary system, with adaptions to meet New Zealand’s own unique circumstances.
The contemporary relationship is multi-faceted and vibrant. It spans all sectors of society from business to defence, the arts, culture and sport, and is underpinned by shared values (democracy, human rights and the rule of law), and strong people-to-people connections.
Numerous government-to-government agreements underpin our close connections. These include, among others, reciprocal working holiday/youth mobility schemes, and agreements on health, social security, double taxation, customs, film co-production and air services. Recent agreements signed include a comprehensive and high-quality free trade agreement, and an arrangement to strengthen cooperation in research, science and innovation.
Foreign affairs, defence and security
As the world’s sixth largest economy, a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, and a likeminded country committed to a long-term presence in the Indo-Pacific, the UK is one of New Zealand’s closest and most important partners.
We are aligned on many foreign policy issues, and work closely together in multilateral fora such as the United Nations and in the Commonwealth. We also have a close intelligence and security partnership, and a long history of defence cooperation.
In response to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, for example, New Zealand Defence Force personnel deployed to the UK and worked alongside the British Armed Forces to support training, intelligence, liaison, and logistics activities in support of Ukraine.
New Zealanders aged between 17 and 35 who want to live and work in the UK for up to two years (extendable by one year) can apply for a UK Youth Mobility Scheme visa. For more information, visit the UK Government’s Youth Mobility Scheme website(external link).
Conversely, UK citizens aged between 18 and 35 wanting to live and work in New Zealand can apply for a 12 or 23 month Working Holiday visa. For more information, visit Immigration New Zealand’s UK Working Holiday Visa website(external link).
Trade, investment and innovation
The UK is New Zealand’s sixth largest export market and an important source of tourists. The UK is a significant source of high quality foreign direct investment (FDI) in New Zealand. The UK is also a significant destination for New Zealand FDI in Europe.
In the year ended June 2023, New Zealand exported $2.86 billion of goods and services to the UK and imported $3.22 billion, representing a trade balance of $359.3 million and a total trade value of $6.08 billion. This represents 3% of all exports of goods and services in this time period and 2.9% of imports. For trade in total goods and services, the UK ranked 6 for highest export value, 10 for highest import value, and 7 for highest total trade value. Up-to-date information on New Zealand’s trade with the UK can be found on Statistics New Zealand’s International Trade Dashboard(external link).
The New Zealand-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force on 31 May 2023. The FTA will help to level the playing field for both New Zealand and UK exporters by reducing tariffs, duties and other trade barriers in both markets.
See more information about the benefits of the FTA:
- UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement – www.gov.uk(external link)
- New Zealand-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement – www.mfat.govt.nz
Further cementing New Zealand and the UK’s economic relationship, in 2023 the UK signed a treaty confirming its accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
New Zealand and the UK have a celebrated history of scientific collaboration which continues to this day. A 2022 arrangement sets a framework for further co-operation in research, science, and innovation. With both New Zealand and the UK having recently associated to Pillar Two of Horizon Europe, there are many new possibilities for science partnerships.
Recent high level visits
There are regular high level visits between our two countries, reflecting the closeness and importance of the relationship. Outbound visits included Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro and then-Prime Minister Ardern to London in September 2022 for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II; the Governor-General and Prime Minister Hipkins’ visits to London in May 2023 to attend King Charles III’s Coronation; and various ministerial visits, including by Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
Notable inwards visits to New Zealand included those by UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kemi Badenoch in July 2023 to sign the treaty confirming the UK’s accession to CPTPP, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s visit to Wellington in April 2023, and visits to New Zealand by then Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan and, separately, COP26 Chairman Alok Sharma.
- New Zealand is represented in the UK by the New Zealand High Commission, London
- The UK is represented in New Zealand by the British High Commission, Wellington(external link)