Māori Engagement and Interests in Trade

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A graphic image of an MFAT branded pattern and a Māori carving. .

The Māori economy

The Māori economy is estimated is be around $68.7 billion (previously estimated at $42.6b in 2013). This has contributed significantly to the growth of New Zealand’s economy. Much of Māori business exposure to trade comes from a relatively high share of land, agricultural, fishing and forestry (which makes up 34% of the total Māori asset base), but Māori are also diversifying into real estate services, manufacturing, transportation, construction and others (66%).

Māori have a growing workforce (with around 100,000 more Māori in the workforce now than eight years ago), characterised by smaller businesses with self-financed ownership. These include builders, plumbers, electricians, drivers, lawyers, accountants and other business consultancy services, along with hospitality establishments.

The Treaty of Waitangi

Māori have a unique status in Aotearoa New Zealand as the government’s treaty partner. Since 2001 we have included a Treaty of Waitangi clause in all of our Free Trade Agreements to reflect the constitutional significance of the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi to New Zealand. This is a non-negotiable.

The exception reserves the policy space for the Government to implement domestic policies in relation to Māori in order for the Crown to continue to fulfil its 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 ensures the Government retains its right to regulate in the public interest.

Our Trade for All agenda

The Government’s Trade for All agenda seeks to make trade accessible for all New Zealanders and protect the interests of indigenous peoples’. We do this through trade, for examples FTAs increase opportunities and reduce barriers for Māori businesses into some of the world’s biggest markets (EU, UK, China). We also do this through trade policy, by developing strategies of engaging with Māori and building networks in Māoridom to better understand Māori interests in trade.

A graphic image of an MFAT branded pattern and a Māori carving. .

Māori engagement on trade

Te Taumata

Te Taumata(external link) is a group of recognised leaders in Māori socio-economic and cultural development areas with significant networks across Māoridom. On the 24th of September 2019, MFAT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Te Taumata to deepen MFAT’s engagement with Māori on trade policy and Māori priorities within trade.  The MOU complements MFAT’s existing structured engagement with Māori and reflects our shared motivation to uphold Te Tiriti/Treaty principles of partnership.

Te Taumata(external link) have held a number regional hui in Rotorua, Whakatū, Gisborne and Kerikeri and soon Waikato Tainui. These hui cover a range of trade and business topics and MFAT regularly attends to provide support. These serve as an opportunity for MFAT and our Ministers to regularly engage with the general public and iwi Māori. If you’d like to learn more, you can read MFAT’s MOU with Te Taumata below.

MFAT Te Taumata MOU [PDF, 3.3 MB]

Trade Policy Road shows

These monthly events are designed to provide an update to businesses and other groups on the Government’s trade agenda and the Trade Recovery Strategy from COVID19, and to promote tools and services that agencies can offer to exporters. NZTE, MBIE, Customs, MPI, and Export Credit Office also participate in these hui, making this a unique opportunity for business to connect with a range of export-facing agencies in one place.

Manukau was chosen for the first Roadshow event to target groups in South Auckland and Waikato that would not typically travel into the Auckland CBD for such an event. The Roadshow was advertised to the general public as well as the manufacturing and agriculture sectors with hubs in South Auckland.

Chief Negotiator Webinars

Our trade team holds regular webinars with our Chief Negotiations to provide live updates on how our negotiation rounds are tracking and answer any questions the public may have, including how trade issues of importance are being addressed.  

Māori Policy Unit & Tāmaki Makaurau team

We have a team based in Auckland that regularly engages with Māori businesses operating in Tāmaki Makaurau to gain invaluable feedback on how to better support Māori.

MFAT also has a Māori Policy Unit which has relationships across Māoridom, including the Iwi Chairs Forum, the Federation of Māori Authorities (FOMA), Māori Women’s Development Incorporation (MWDI), Whāriki Māori Business Network (Auckland) and the Digital Council for Aotearoa.

Previous meetings

In August 2019, MFAT met with Waitangi Tribunal claimants in Kerikeri.

In April 2019 MFAT met with Māori groups in Rotorua to discuss current trade negotiations, APEC 2021 as well as the development of a dedicated mechanism through which Māori can deepen engagement with the Government on trade policy issues.

During August and September 2018 11 hui-a-iwi were held across New Zealand as part of the Government's consultation on the new Trade for All Agenda. These took place in Wellington, Whakatāne, Rotorua, Gisborne, Christchurch, Auckland, Hamilton, Nelson, Hastings, Whāngarei and Tauranga, and were an opportunity for Māori to have their say on the future direction of our trade policy.

Between November 2017 and May 2018, ten consultation hui were held with Māori groups that have expressed an interest in trade agreements - such as Waitangi Tribunal claimants, the Pou Tahua of the Iwi Chairs Forum, the Federation of Māori Authorities, Māori business and Maori health practitioners/researchers. They were held in Auckland, Wellington, Hastings, Kaikohe and Rotorua, among other locations. Workshops to discuss free trade agreements were also held in Hamilton and Wellington in 2017.

Between March and June 2017 eight hui-a-iwi were held on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Christchurch, Wellington, Rotorua, Auckland, Whāngarei, Nelson, Hastings and Hamilton.

Contact Us

We are keen to share information and to hear from tangata whenua on our trade agreements. Email us at fta_outreach@mfat.govt.nz to received regular updates on all our FTAs as well as invitations to our future trade events/webinars.

For more information, each of New Zealand's existing trade agreements have a publicly available National Interest Analysis (NIA) with information on the consultation that took place for the agreement in question. 

Poipoia te kākano kia tipu – Nurture the seed and it will blossom

A group of people posing for a photo. .

Māori interests in trade


In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade together with Te Puni Kōkiri commissioned BERL to put together a report on Māori interests in the NZ-EU FTA in order to better understand the priorities and challenges for Māori exporters in accessing the EU market. 

The report highlighted the value of the EU market to Māori businesses but noted the need for greater support to help SMEs.  Māori interest in intellectual property protections and treatment for taonga works, taonga species, and mātauranga Māori also featured prominently.

Read the full report [PDF, 706 KB]

You can read more about Māori interests and what we are aiming to achieve in the EU negotiations in the document below.

Māori interests in the EU FTA [PDF, 54 KB]


Many Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) outcomes are expected to benefit Māori exporters and businesses including:

  • A single rulebook covering all 15 markets, which has the potential to significantly reduce complexity, and therefore compliance costs, for Māori exporters;
  • Improved goods market access into Indonesia for some primary sector products of relevance to Māori export businesses, including through tariff elimination on sheepmeat, beef, fish and fish products, liquid milk, grated or powdered cheese, honey, avocados, tomatoes and persimmons;
  • Trade facilitation measures and improvements to address non-tariff barriers. For example RCEP creates an expectation that customs authorities will release ‘perishable goods’ such as seafood within six hours of arrival, including (in exceptional circumstances) release of such goods outside normal business hours, which should reduce spoilage and save exporters money;
  • An avenue for New Zealand to address non-tariff barriers maintained by an RCEP country by providing for a consultation mechanism with clear and predictable processes and timeframes;
  • On intellectual property, the outcomes on geographical indications (GIs) extend advantages previously secured in CPTPP to a wider group of trading partners. In particular, RCEP requires Parties to adopt or maintain due process and transparency obligations in respect of any regime they provide for the protection of GIs;
  • RCEP does not contain Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions.

Protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore

Māori stakeholders expressed a particular interest in relation to the protection of Māori rights and interests in te reo Māori, traditional knowledge and cultural expressions, mātauranga Māori, indigenous flora and fauna and taonga species.

RCEP goes further than any of New Zealand’s other FTAs in recognising the importance of prior and informed consent, access and benefit sharing for accessing and using genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore (GRTKF). This is an important step forward at the international level to reaffirm the region’s commitment to the rights and interests of indigenous peoples in GRTKF.

RCEP also retains the policy flexibility required for Parties to implement GRTKF measures most appropriate for their domestic circumstances. RCEP also protects the right of New Zealand governments to regulate for the environment, education, health and well-being of New Zealanders.


The Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) may provide opportunities to leverage economic cooperation on digital economy issues, and for Māori exporters to benefit from clearer rules on the digital economy. DEPA provides a platform for enhancing cultural and people-to-people links, including between Indigenous Peoples. This is contained in the Digital Inclusion module of the DEPA.


Strengthening Māori – Pasifika connections

  • Māori have strong connections with the Pacific region, including history, culture, language and people-to-people links. Our Māori and Pacific communities in Aotearoa are intricately connected, and a growing population of New Zealanders identify as both Māori and Pasifika – 34,269 people in 2018.
  • The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus establishes a common set of trading rules for the Pacific region, which makes it easier for Māori businesses to trade with Pacific partners. New Zealand’s main exports to Pacific countries include dairy, meat, machinery and iron. Key imports into New Zealand from the Pacific include machinery, live animals, meat, vegetables and textiles.
  • PACER Plus presents opportunities to deepen economic relationships between Māori and Pacific partners. Engagements could include business to business activities and mentoring, providing pathways for goods and services exports, or cultivating joint ventures or partnerships.
  • Collaboration may be explored in areas such as digitalising indigenous language and culture and renewable energy models. Labour mobility initiatives are already underway at regional level, involving iwi, employers and potential employees. For example, successful partnerships with iwi have led to labour mobility opportunities in the fisheries sector.
  • PACER Plus countries have expressed a strong interest in learning from the Māori economy and Māori engagement in the global trading system. In addition to providing high-quality goods and services, Māori strengths of relationship building, and cultural identity are highly valued in the expanding Asia-Pacific market.

Intellectual property

The agreement does not have a chapter on intellectual property, as ownership and access to intangible cultural heritage are subject to ongoing consideration throughout the Pacific region. PACER Plus will not limit New Zealand making any future domestic changes in relation to the protection of indigenous flora or fauna, or treaty settlements.

Read more on Māori interests in PACER Plus [PDF, 347 KB].

Pacific Alliance

Indigenous cooperation

There is already a large amount of activity between New Zealand Māori and indigenous communities in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, and there is scope to deepen these connections in areas of mutual interest. New Zealand has put forward a framework for advancing indigenous cooperation between New Zealand and the Pacific Alliance under the FTA.

Report on Māori interests in the Pacific Alliance

An economic consultancy, BERL, was also commissioned to investigate Māori export capability and interests using desktop research, supported by qualitative phone interviews with a range of Māori enterprises and representative groups.

Read the report here: Māori Exports, current and potential trade with Pacific Alliance countries [PDF, 1 MB]


Traditional knowledge

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) includes a number of provisions aimed at improving the treatment of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions in intellectual property systems. These encourage information sharing between intellectual property offices on their practices for dealing with traditional knowledge, and require Parties to endeavour to ensure that quality patent examination practices are applied when applications for patents relate to traditional knowledge.

Key outcomes of particular interest to Māori exporters from the CPTPP include:
  • All tariffs on New Zealand forestry and forestry products were eliminated as part of CPTPP, including in Japan (New Zealand’s 4th-largest export market) and Viet Nam (New Zealand’s 9th-largest market).
  • All of New Zealand’s fish and fish products imported into Japan currently face tariffs. Ninety-nine percent of these will be eliminated within 11 years, and the remainder within 16 years. 
  • All tariffs for New Zealand kiwifruit were eliminated at entry into force and existing duty free access will be locked in. This includes duty free access to Japan – New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit market – representing tariff reductions of more than $20 million.  
  • All tariffs on New Zealand wine were eliminated, including immediate duty-free access to Canada (New Zealand’s 4th-largest wine market).
  • Nearly all tariffs on New Zealand sheep meat were eliminated upon entry into force, including locking in preferential rates to Canada (New Zealand’s 7th-largest sheep meat market).
  • All tariffs on New Zealand apples will be eliminated within 11 years. This will level the playing field with Australian apple exporters, who already enjoy preferential access into Japan.
  • Tariffs on beef exports to Japan will reduce from 38.5 percent to 9 percent over 16 years, the best outcome Japan has given to any trade agreement partner. This would immediately remove Australian beef exporters’ current tariff advantage over New Zealand in the Japanese market.
  • CPTPP includes useful improvements for New Zealand’s dairy exporters. They will benefit from an estimated NZ$85 million in overall tariff reductions through preferential access to new quotas into Japan, Canada and Mexico, in addition to tariff elimination on a number of products.
New Zealand's commitment to change the Plant Variety Rights Act

The CPTPP commits New Zealand to make changes to the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987 to either give effect to, or accede to, the most recent version of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91). When implementing this obligation, New Zealand has the right to adopt any measures that it deems necessary to protect indigenous plant species in fulfilment of its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) began a review of the Plant Variety Rights (PVR) Act(external link) in early 2017 which has considered in detail how New Zealand should implement its obligations under CPTPP and meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

A PVR Bill to replace the PVR Act is now being considered by Parliament. You can read the Bill and follow its progress(external link) through the House on the Parliament website.

Engagement with Māori

Government decisions around the CPTPP are and will continue to be informed by Māori concerns and interests as the Crown's Treaty partner.  A summary of consultations undertaken prior to ratification of the CPTPP is provided in section 9 of the National Interest Analysis (NIA) for the CPTPP.

In 2021, we sought further views in light of requests to join the CPTPP, following the formal accession requests by the UK in February. We continue to remain interested in engaging with Treaty partners, including in light of other possible requests for accession. Views and requests to meet to further discuss are welcome via cptppconsultations@mfat.govt.nz.

MBIE is the lead government agency responsible for coordinating the Crown Māori Engagement Strategy and Action Plan(external link).

Matauranga Maori at MFAT Report

In 2021, the Ministry commissioned a report, which assessed two key objectives.The first considered whether the right structures and systems were in place for the Ministry to deliver its strategic and operational objectives for Māori policy. It also assessed whether the Ministry’s Mātauranga Māori capability is in line with the expectations of Ministers, the requirements of the Public Service Act, and the expectations of our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and staff.

A graphic image of an MFAT branded pattern and a Māori carving. .


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