The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) presents opportunities for Māori businesses.
The Māori economy has an asset base estimated to be worth around $50 billion, contributing significantly to the growth of the national economy. To date, Māori economic growth has centred on four main sectors: agri-sector (forestry and fishing), tourism, property (construction and infrastructure), and technology and innovation.
These sectors are critical to the New Zealand economy and to export growth in particular. Māori own 50% of New Zealand’s fishing quota and approximately 30% of planted forests. Collectively, Māori control around 30% of lamb production, 10% of milk production and 30% of sheep and beef production.
Key areas for future investment include: optimising existing assets to bring them into full production, ‘downstream activities’ including food processing assets and tourism facilities, infrastructure, and investing in technology and innovation to add greater value.
Read more in ‘The Māori Economy Investor Guide’ (2017) (external link) released by The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
Recognising the Treaty of Waitangi
As has been the case with all of New Zealand’s free trade agreements since 2001, RCEP includes a Treaty of Waitangi clause reflecting the constitutional significance of the Treaty of Waitangi to New Zealand. The exception allows the Government to implement domestic policies in relation to Māori, including in fulfilment of the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty, without being obliged to offer equivalent treatment to persons of other countries that are party to the Agreement.
The Treaty of Waitangi exception is just one of a number of exceptions and reservations which ensure that our government retains its right to regulate in the public interest.
RCEP will not affect New Zealand’s domestic approach to the protection of Māori traditional knowledge. As in all our recent FTA negotiations, New Zealand’s position in RCEP has been to ensure that we retain the requisite policy space to address this issue, as required.
The international conversation on this issue is taking place at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
Government decisions on free trade agreements need to respond to Māori concerns and interests as the Crown’s Treaty partner. MFAT will continue to engage with Māori through public events, submissions and email.