Catholic diocese meets select committee on UK Free Trade Agreement

select committee

A parliamentary select committee heard the Catholic Diocese of Auckland’s views on the UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Legislation Bill last week.

The diocese’s Peace and International Justice Committee (PIJC) told the Committee they opposed the FTA.

“Our submission is based on the recognition of human dignity and the rights of all society members to protection, particularly the most vulnerable”, they said.

“It [the FTA] falls significantly short of its Tiriti o Waitangi obligations, leaving Māori open to future exploitation in key areas.”

This includes Intellectual Property and Digital Data – areas that incorporate cultural and physical taonga and whakapapa, “the essence of Māori identity.”

Despite the apparent provision for Māori to benefit from the FTA, there is no process for enforcing any of the provisions contained.

The PIJC also noted that despite being a Tiriti signatory, the FTA shows the UK Government wants to distance itself from any Tiriti obligations.

This is despite an MFAT report recommending they “incorporate the protection and promotion of indigenous intellectual property into New Zealand’s trade agreements”.

In late 2020 Nga Toki Whakarururanga (NTW) was set up, following mediation between the Crown and claimants from a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into Māori involvement in trade negotiations.

The PIJC told the select committee the NTWs Tiriti assessment found the Government had decided the FTA negotiating mandate with no role for Māori separate from the Crown.

NTW’s advisors were given an edited version of the draft text in late 2021. However as its contents were secret, they couldn’t consult with affected Māori outside the group. Most of their input was too late and had minimal impact on the final FTA.

The NTW report also noted the Tiriti clause allowing the Crown to accord ‘more favourable treatment’ to Māori remained unchanged from previous FTAs.

This was despite recommendations from the Waitangi Tribunal and the Government’s Trade for All Advisory Board that more effective protections were needed.

An NTW spokesperson says “as far as Māori making economic gains, the figure we’ve seen … is a $13 million increase in GDP for a Māori asset base of $68 billion”.

In the chapter dedicated to Māori Trade and Economic Cooperation, the FTA acknowledges the Tiriti’s constitutional importance. The UK ‘notes’ it was an original signatory to it, but distances itself from any ongoing obligations. All its subsequent Tiriti references are confined to New Zealand.

Cooperation is frequently mentioned.

The chapter says New Zealand and the UK “may facilitate” three cooperative activities: collaborating to enhance Māori-owned enterprises’ ability to benefit from FTA opportunities; developing links between the UK and Māori-owned enterprises (eg joint roadshows); continuing to support science, research and innovation as appropriate between the UK and Māori communities.

In a footnote the UK says nothing in the chapter imposes an obligation on it to actually do anything.

In July, Rawiri Waititi said the Māori Party will oppose the FTA because it shut Māori out of negotiations and failed to protect Māori rights and interests.

It is “yet another failed opportunity to reimagine trade policy”. Vague statements about how Māori would be better off is not partnership, he said.


  • Submission supplied by Catholic Diocese of Auckland
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