Russia – Belarus – Kazakhstan Customs Union FTA

This negotiation was suspended in 2014 following Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.

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Why it’s a priority for NZ

The RBK FTA will give New Zealand traders an important ‘first mover’ competitive advantage. RBK make up the largest import market for butter and beef in the world, the second largest market for cheese, and the fifth largest food importer overall. With new members expecting to join the Customs Union, including Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, an FTA with this group of countries can be expected to deliver medium and long term benefits for New Zealand.

While New Zealand’s current trade with the Customs Union membership is relatively modest, the relationship has strong potential for growth. Rising incomes in Russia in particular have created a growing population of wealthy consumers and a growing market for imported goods and services. There are particular opportunities for New Zealand exporters of food and beverages, clothing, agritech and medical equipment. 

The negotiations were suspended in 2014 following Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.

What are the potential benefits?

  • the immediate elimination of most tariffs, and the gradual reduction of remaining tariffs to zero within ten years
  • better cooperation on sanitary and phytosanitary rules
  • preferential treatment for New Zealand service providers
  • enhanced protections for New Zealand investors and investment
  • a mechanism for settling trade disputes

Timing for the negotiations

Negotiations started: November 2010

Status: Negotiations currently suspended.

How to get involved

MFAT negotiators are keen to hear from businesses or individuals who are facing barriers to the Russian, Belarus or Kazakhstan markets. Examples of the common sorts of barriers New Zealand businesses face offshore are:

  • high tariffs, eg duties imposed on items at the border that add significantly to the price point in the market
  • surcharges and duties required at the border
  • sanitary and phytosanitary measures, eg restrictions on the type of animal or plant material allowed across the border
  • technical barriers to trade (regulations or officially endorsed standards), import licensing, customs or transparency problems
  • restrictions on individuals, eg difficulties with recognising qualifications or obtaining business visas, requirements to obtain local licences
  • restrictions on investors, eg requirements to operate in joint ventures with local partners, requirements to employ locals or restrictions on the ability of New Zealanders to be transferred to work in subsidiaries or affiliates, local representation requirements for boards of directors, restrictions on the ability to invest in a new enterprise or invest equity in a local company
  • financial or business restrictions, eg restrictions on supplying services from New Zealand (including via the internet), difficulties competing with local firms who benefit from government preferences, complex and discriminatory local regulations

We also want to hear from New Zealand companies that are concerned about the effect of an increase in imports from RBK countries as a result of New Zealand agreeing to eliminate our tariffs.

For more information about the RBK negotiations contact us by:


The Coordinator, Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union FTA
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Private Bag 18901


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