Tiriti neglected, Māori failed by UK trade agreement - NTW

By Will Trafford

A group that took claims to the Waitangi Tribunal during Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) negotiations says Māori have nothing to celebrate in the new free-trade deal inked with the UK overnight.

The agreement sees the UK eliminate all tariffs on New Zealand exports; the government expects it to boost GDP by between $700 million and $1 billion but Ngā Toki Whakarururanga (NTW) says the agreement's a "missed opportunity", which presents little commercial benefit plus a threat to taonga.

New Zealand is currently battling Australia in the UK courts to maintain the word Mānuka as taonga, exclusively representing Aotearoa’s honey exports. Despite the UK Intellectual Property Office initially ruling in favour of New Zealand, a January appeal from the Aussies saw a ruling meaning ‘Manuka’ could be used to market honey produced in Australia.

Ngā Toki Whakarururanga (NTW), says protections for taonga were missing in the CPTPP and they should be in the UK FTA, so Māori don't have to battle for rights that should be enshrined in law, in the UK courts.

Pita Tipene of Ngā Toki Whakarururanga (NTW) says the UK FTA is a 'missed opportunity' / NZME

Pita Tipene of Ngā Toki Whakarururanga (NTW) says the UK FTA is a 'missed opportunity' / NZME

“Māori should have been celebrating this trade deal as a high point that sets a new bar for a 180-year relationship with the Crown, a model for how Māori rights and responsibilities are protected in these agreements.”

“That hasn’t happened and it’s a missed opportunity. If not with this FTA, when?” group co-chair Pita Tipene (Ngāti Hine) says.

New Zealand is currently battling Australia at the UK intellectual property office over use of the word Mānuka as a taonga

New Zealand is currently battling Australia in the UK High Court over the use of the word Mānuka as a taonga 

NTW lobbied the ministry for Tiriti-centric negotiations but those talks haven't materialised in the agreement. according to co-chair Moana Maniapoto (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa).

“Much of what we see in this FTA is just symbolic. There’s a Māori trade chapter with no teeth, where the UK even says it’s not committing to actually do anything,” Maniapoto says.

NTW says it’s concerned a raft of chapters threatens fundamental Māori rights and values, especially those on intellectual property, digital trade and foreign investment. The Waitangi Tribunal’s report last year on the CPTPP said the need to protect matauranga Māori from digital trade rules was fundamental; it shouldn’t be traded off against other interests.

“It’s done the same thing again here,” Maniapoto says.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor discusses Honey with Te Aro School students at Premier House. Photo / Supplied

Agriculture and Trade Minister Damien O'Connor discusses Honey with Te Aro School students at Premier House. Photo / Supplied

NTW says beyond the failure to protect intellectual property as taonga the entire agreement represents a negligible increase to the Māori economy.

“The only figure we’ve seen, from research for the Taumata, is a $13 million increase in GDP for a Māori asset base of $68 billion. In today’s terms that is about 10Auckland houses.” Maniapoto says.

NWT says it’s lobbying the government for an independent Māori seat at the negotiating table in future trade agreements.

“These are intergenerational responsibilities we carry,” Tipene says.

“We are determined to hold the Crown to account over Tiriti obligations in the next deal with the European Union and beyond," he says.  "Māori need an independent seat so we can speak for ourselves and protect our rights and interest."

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor has been asked for comment. Earlier today Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern argued the deal included a ground-breaking Māori trade and economic cooperation chapter that would create a platform for cooperation on issues important to Māori.