EU free-trade deal a great meal but Māori still not at the table - Traci Houpapa

By Stefan Dimitrof

A free-trade deal struck between New Zealand and the European Union in the very last moments of four years of negotiations is expected to build New Zealand’s exports to the EU up by $1.8 billion a year by 2035.

Because 91% of EU tariffs will be dropped by the EU, New Zealand will be able to export goods including seafood, kiwifruit, wine, onions, apples, Mānuka honey and manufactured items.

Federation of Māori Authorities (Foma) chair Traci Houpapa (Nō Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tuwharetoa), who is also on the board of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, said Māori were a significant trader and exporters of primary industries.

'The right thing to do'

“It also gives us the opportunity for the first time to have an indigenous or Māori trade chapter within this FTA and that’s significant as early indications from negotiations from the EU wouldn't recognise Māori from this trade arrangement." 

Houpapa said she knows New Zealand is never going to get everything it wants in a deal but thinks that under the time restrictions and the deal that was offered, the prime minister accepting the deal “was the right thing to do”.

There is also a small win for dairy and meat exporters who can expect  $120 million of new export revenue with the potential of it growing to $600 million in the next seven years.

Houpapa said, "We know that our dairy and our red meat industries are both important for the country. We always want more and we always come away from the negotiations feeling like we are leaving something on the table."

Some of the concerns Houpapa said that those exporters are having to deal with are smaller quotas and tariffs.

Houpapa said another disappointment of the deal was the lack of Māori involvement. “If we were going to be a part of another trade arrangement or negotiation, then Foma’s expectation is that Māori would be at the table from the beginning in terms of designing, crafting and engaging in those early-stage negotiations.”

“Now two industry groups have that privilege and position and we are expecting Māori to have the same.”

Houpapa said Māori they always been known as traders. “We are significant traders, we are significant investors, and we are heavily invested in the success of Aotearoa."