Associate Professor of Māori Business Dr Jason Mika has addressed members of the UK International Trade Select Committee as an expert witness on the implications of the NZ-UK Free Trade Agreement.
The historic NZ-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), signed on 28 February 2022, will give New Zealand exporters greater access to the United Kingdom market by eliminating tariffs on all New Zealand imported goods by 2029.
The FTA is particularly important for Māori, says Dr Mika, due to the fact that a large number of Māori exporters are concentrated in the primary industries, such as fisheries, forestry, dairy, meat, wine, and horticulture. An independent report estimated the FTA had the potential to deliver 400 additional jobs for Māori.
For the first time in any FTA, the agreement also recognises Māori perspectives on the environment and sustainability - including concepts such as kaitiakitanga and mauri - and Māori interests related to intellectual property of mātauranga (traditional knowledge) and culture.
Dr Mika was asked to complete some research last year for New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which examined the NZ-UK FTA from the perspective of Māori enterprises.
His team interviewed 50 Māori entrepreneurs, managers, and business people from a diverse range of Māori SMEs, corporates, health/social service providers, and post-settlement governance entities.
Speaking via video link to the UK International Trade Select Committee on 25 May, Dr Mika said his research had found that Māori enterprises viewed the FTA as a positive opportunity to do more business and trade with the UK.
“A lot of our Māori people live and work in the UK; Māori aspire to diversify their markets and offer UK consumers high-quality products and services infused with an Indigenous element,” he said.
The NZ-UK FTA also contains a chapter on Māori trade and economic cooperation, which aims to ensure that Māori benefit from the FTA.
When asked by the committee about Māori interests in the FTA, Dr Mika said, “There is a key aspiration to grow the Māori economy …and also to advance Māori aspirations for economic and social wellbeing.
“There is also the interest in terms of building enterprise capacity, to be able to do business in the UK, so there is an equitable opportunity and outcome for Māori in respect to trade with the UK.”
However, Dr Mika’s research suggested there was still “work to be done” in terms of creating a level playing field between Māori and non-Māori enterprises.
“The expectation is that through the FTA there will be equity of opportunity for Māori enterprises to trade internationally and in particular with the UK…The question is, who benefits from trade? Do Indigenous groups benefit from trade the same as others, do they have the same opportunity of access to others?”
Dr Mika’s research also identified concerns with the FTA about the potential misappropriation of Māori culture and intellectual property, and that Māori interests in taonga such as Indigenous plant species and genetic material would not be adequately protected.
“There was an expectation from Māori they would be at the negotiating table of the FTA, not just as a stakeholder but as a Treaty partner, as tangata whenua, as an Indigenous people.”
Dr Mika said he hoped that Māori-Indigenous provisions would become a standard part of all future FTAs. “As the panel has already said, this is a start but it needs to go further.”