MFAT & University of Auckland Student Essay Competition 2021

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and University of Auckland Student Essay Competition 2021 has now closed. It was run in association with the University of Auckland Economics Society and the Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School 2021.

We had a great response to the competition and the judging panel were very impressed with the quality of essays received and the level of engagement and understanding shown by all entrants. The following students’ entries were selected as the winners and runner up of the competition:

  • Joint winners: Mikayla Williams and Christopher Bradburn
  • Runner up: Max Johansson-Pugh

The joint winners receive a $400 grant each towards their study and the runner up a $200 grant. They also receive tickets to attend the Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School(external link) 2021 – an annual two-day event attracting internationally recognised leaders and thinkers on trade and economic policy.

The joint winners’ essays are below. Please note the views expressed in the essays are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New Zealand Government or the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The essay topic

University of Auckland students were invited to submit an essay of no more than 2000 words (excluding references) addressing the following topic:

In 2019, the Trade for All Advisory Board reported to the Government on how trade policy can be made to work for all New Zealanders. It found that trade is a crucial generator of the country’s wealth and economic wellbeing, but that trade policy must reflect New Zealand’s full range of interests—economic, social and environmental—and its partnership with Māori under Te Tiriti/the Treaty.

As New Zealand looks to deliver a trade-led recovery from COVID-19 and to ‘build back better’, how can our trade and international policy better support sustainable and inclusive economic development for all New Zealanders?


The competition was piloted with the University of Auckland. University of Auckland students enrolled in any degree programme or higher in any discipline were eligible to enter.

Judging process

A judging panel comprising MFAT staff determined the winning entries. Essays were judged on the following criteria:

  • Depth and breadth of analysis of the policy issues, including consideration of a range of perspectives
  • Appropriate use of evidence to present clear and compelling analysis
  • Engagement with the topic and with contemporary policy issues
  • Originality of ideas and strength of argument.

Tips & useful material

Information on the Trade for All Agenda can be found in the Trade for All Advisory Board’s report(external link) and on MFAT’s website.

MFAT has also published two working papers exploring the links between trade, productivity, sustainability, and inclusiveness. The first presents initial analysis examining the linkages between trade and productivity, sustainability and inclusiveness, while the second provides a more theoretical framework to consider these links.

Given the potential breadth of the question, students are welcome to answer the question by focussing on particular issues in more detail or by covering a wider range of issues.


August 2021
Monday 9 August 2021 Submissions open
All entries emailed to
September 2021
Sunday 12 September 2021 Entries close
All entries submitted by 11:59pm, 12 September 2021.
Late September 2021 Winners notified
MFAT contacted all entrants and informed them of the results.
December 2021 Winners attend the Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School 2021

Terms & conditions


  1. Entries are open to University of Auckland students enrolled in any degree programme or higher.
  2. All entries must be received via email to by 11:59pm Sunday 12 September 2021.
  3. Entries are limited to one per person and must be completed individually.
  4. Direct relatives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) employees are not eligible to enter this competition. For these purposes, a "direct relative" is a child, parent, or sibling, including step-parents, children, and siblings.
  5. Each essay must be the work of the student entering it and any sources (published or unpublished) must be acknowledged.
  6. Students may not seek guidance from past or present MFAT staff. Any queries should be directed to

Judging process and prizes

  1. The winning author will be awarded a $500 grant towards their study. Second and third place will receive $300 and $200 respectively. Each winner will also receive a ticket to the Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School.
  2. MFAT will pay the prizes directly to the winning students’ nominated back accounts.
  3. If students are unable to attend the Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School, the prize is not exchangeable for cash or another prize.
  4. MFAT may decline to award prizes if it determines that none of the entries are of a sufficient standard.
  5. The judges' decisions are final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  6. The names of the winner and runners up will be published on the MFAT website.

Use of personal information

  1. By entering this competition, you grant permission to MFAT to send you information about the competition. Subject to clause 15 below in relation to the three winners, MFAT will not share your email address or other details about you with anyone else, including other entrants, without your permission. Nor will MFAT use your email address to send you information on anything other than the essay competition without your permission.
  2. The essays of the three winners will be owned by MFAT, and MFAT reserves the right to use, publish or promote these essays without the winners’ permission. If MFAT publishes an essay it will acknowledge the winner’s name.
  3. By entering the competition, you agree to participate in promotional activities which may include media or social media activities.
  4. MFAT is a government department and accordingly is subject to the Official Information Act 1982. The entries submitted to the essay competition will constitute "official information", so it is possible that MFAT will be obliged to release some or all of the essays if it receives a request for them.


  1. Any entrant failing to comply with these terms and conditions may be disqualified from the competition.
  2. MFAT reserves the right to amend these terms and conditions or issue decisions on any matter not included in these terms and conditions. Such decisions shall be final.


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