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NZ-UK free trade deal 'groundbreaking' for Māori - iwi exporter

New Zealand’s in-principle agreement with a free trade deal with the United Kingdom has the potential to be “precedent-setting”, an iwi exporter says. 

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Te Arawa Fisheries Group’s Chris Insley says it gives indigenous people around the world hope. Source: Breakfast

Chris Insley, chair of Te Awawa Fisheries Group and Te Taumata Māori trade organisation, told Breakfast the trade deal gave Māori businesses an opportunity to better access the UK market.

“From a Māori point of view, there’s so much to be happy about this agreement.” 

The agreement, estimated to be worth $1 billion over 15 years to the New Zealand economy, would allow Aotearoa to send over its wine, honey, onions and hoki without being hit with tariffs imposed by the UK. 

The in-principle deal with Britain would see it eliminate 97 per cent of its tariffs on export products on the day the agreement comes into force, while New Zealand would also remove its limited tariffs on some UK goods.

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New Zealand and UK agree on free trade deal

The deal is also set to include a dedicated chapter on indigenous cooperation

Insley said it was “groundbreaking” that Māori concepts would be included in the deal. 

“I think it opens the door … for other indigenous peoples. It gives them hope that there are opportunities here,” he said. 

“We’ve now got to step up. We’ve now got to seize the opportunity once this deal is ratified some time next year.” 

Insley said the reduction in tariffs had the potential to make a big difference for Māori organisations, with about half of the fishing industry in New Zealand controlled by iwi. 

“That is massive for us, we didn’t expect that,” he said of the immediate removal of some tariffs once the deal is in place. 

“At the moment, without this deal, we’re really almost held captive to big economies like China who buy most of our wood, our beef, our fish. Now this gives us another massive option.” 

Examples of tariff reductions for New Zealand exporters under the free trade agreement. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

British High Commissioner to New Zealand Laura Clarke said it was an “exciting time” for both the UK and Aotearoa. 

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Laura Clarke says the agreement recognises Britain’s relationship with “bicultural New Zealand”. Source: Breakfast

Clarke said negotiations began with an intention to be innovative in areas like indigenous trade, sustainability, and climate change. 

“It’s economically meaningful, but I think it’s also interesting and exciting in trade policy terms.”

She said the inclusion of an indigenous trade chapter was “quite novel” for the UK, but it reflected that Britain has a relationship with “bicultural New Zealand”. 

The agreement is currently in principle, which means the finer detail still needs to be negotiated and agreed upon by both sides.