The Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement

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IPETCA Partnership Council Terms of Reference

The Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA) is a world first international instrument aimed at strengthening the indigenous economic inclusion of indigenous peoples through trade and investment, addressing indigenous trade issues, raising awareness of Indigenous economies across the globe whilst increasing economic cooperation between indigenous peoples.

Concluded in December 2021, the IPETCA brings together Australian, Canadian, Chinese-Taipei and New Zealand Indigenous peoples. A key feature of the IPETCA is the establishment of the IPETCA Partnership Council which consist of officials and Indigenous representatives that will jointly oversee and implement the IPETCA.

The governance framework for the IPETCA Partnership Council is now completed with the Terms of Reference endorsed by participating economies.

New Zealand will chair the Partnership Council for the next two years.

The Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement

Since February 2021, New Zealand and other APEC economies have worked towards developing an Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA). The focus of the IPETCA is to strengthen the economic empowerment of Indigenous Peoples in the Asia Pacific region. This would be done by promoting greater Indigenous trade and economic linkages and ensuring international focus on Indigenous economic and trade matters.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Associate Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta and Minister of Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor announced the conclusion of the IPETCA initiative on 10 December, and invited economies to declare their intention to join.

The IPETCA is a new, first of its kind open plurilateral Arrangement across several economies, which creates a framework for economies and Indigenous Peoples to work together to increase trade and economic cooperation. A joint decision-making body, the Partnership Council, will enable both economy representatives and Indigenous Peoples to oversee and implement the Arrangement.

The Arrangement will help to unlock cooperation across a range of sectors and areas, including responsible business conduct, traditional knowledge, opportunities for Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, digital trade and e-commerce, and many more. It also reaffirms economies’ commitments to important international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Why is an IPETCA needed?

Indigenous Peoples have been traders and entrepreneurs since time immemorial. Of the world’s 476 million Indigenous Peoples, the World Bank estimates 70 percent live in the Asia Pacific region. Indigenous economies have evolved considerably and continue to make a meaningful contribution within APEC economies.

We know that firms engaged in the tradable and export-focused sectors are more innovative, more competitive and pay higher wages. Indigenous Peoples are increasingly active in these export-focused sectors, but growing inequality, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and continued social and economic challenges, is a constraint to Indigenous Peoples taking full advantage of the opportunities presented by trade.

Ensuring that all of our people are better able to participate in and share the benefits of trade increases the potential of Indigenous societies to flourish, with empowering social and economic outcomes.

The IPETCA will help to embed Indigenous trade issues more firmly on the international agenda, and gain profile for an increasingly important area of work.

What are the key outcomes of the IPETCA?

The IPETCA achieves a number of important elements:

  • Reaffirms the existing rights of Indigenous Peoples, including under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments;
  • Contains a definition of “Indigenous trade and investment” that was developed by Indigenous Peoples, including Māori;
  • Enables economies to work with Indigenous Peoples to further develop and expand international Indigenous trade and requires economies to promote policies that increase Indigenous Peoples’ participation in trade and investment;
  • Enables economies to consider a range of activities and sectors for direct cooperation, as well as underlying principles that should underpin cooperation;
  • Specific understandings on Responsible Business Conduct and the protection of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge;
  • Establishes an IPETCA Partnership Council comprised of economies’ and Indigenous Peoples’ representatives to oversee the IPETCA’s implementation;
  • Review provisions aimed at ensuring that the IPETCA remains fit for purpose; and
  • Is open to any APEC Member economy, WTO Member or any other economy to join.

What has been the role of Indigenous Peoples in developing the IPETCA?

Indigenous Peoples, including Māori, have played a critical role in developing the text of the IPETCA alongside participating economies.  

What will role of Indigenous Peoples going forward?

Going forward, through the establishment of the IPETCA Partnership Council, Indigenous Peoples and participating economies will jointly oversee the implementation and operation of the IPETCA. 

Who can join the IPETCA?

The IPETCA is open to all economies that are committed to strengthening the economic empowerment of Indigenous Peoples and trade and economic collaboration.

Next steps

Once four economies have submitted a letter from the relevant agency declaring their intention to join, the Arrangement will enter into effect. Once that has happened, other economies’ agencies are invited to submit expressions of interest to join the IPETCA to New Zealand’s Te Puni Kōkiri, Ministry of Māori Development, at We welcome your feedback on the Arrangement, and/ or any ideas for increasing Indigenous Peoples’ participation in trade.


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