In the lead up to Waitangi celebrations and the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership in New Zealand this week, much is being made of Maori opposition to the TPP due to a lack of consultation and a perceived loss of sovereignty, for New Zealand in general and Maori in particular. Exporters would also have liked more transparency and consultation, but we understood that there needed to be some confidentiality amongst negotiators in order that they got the best deal they could for New Zealand.
While no country that is party to a multilateral trade deal ever gets 100% of what they want, New Zealand tends to do well out of trade deals because our biggest exports(dairy, meat, fishing, forestry, horticulture) also tend to face the largest tariffs. The reason Maori will do so well out of the TPP is because they are large owners of these assets. The Maori ownership of agriculture,forestry and fishing in 2013 was over $10 billion, a close to 30% share. They have 40% of fishing quota, 10% of Kiwifruit, 30% of lamb production, 36% of forestry, 10% of dairy production and the list goes on.
All this is very good news for the New Zealand economy because Maori do not tend to sell their assets – they re-invest for future generations. This will mean in the future they are our globally competitive New Zealand based multi-nationals(investing here and overseas) that in a small economy a long way from our markets we struggle to build otherwise. When they get to the size where there are investing overseas (and some already are) they too will benefit from Investor State Dispute protection in the TPP, which means a foreign government must treat them fairly and not discriminate against them or appropriate their assets.
Larger entities are able to execute better in overseas markets (they will have deeper pockets) they can attract and retain better qualified staff, they can pay higher salaries and they can generate more economic activity for local suppliers. But in order for this to happen, all our exporters including Maori owned exporters, need to have a level playing field to compete.
If New Zealand stood outside the TPP (a market of 800 million well paid consumers) and faced tariffs our competitors were not facing our exporters would struggle to compete.
People should remember that trade is not just about the exchange of goods. It is about the exchange of ideas, of services, people skills and of people themselves via increased tourism and education. These are all good things and all contribute to the New Zealand economy, and Maori are important players in all these areas.
I like to think that if we are all trading with each other across a range of cultures and languages, then we all start to understand each other better, become more invested in each other’s success (e.g. China’s economic growth has become important to so many countries) then we are less likely to be engaged in conflict and fighting each other. Many of our exporters are proud of their increasingly multicultural work forces and they feel it is a richer work environment as a result.
Opinion by Catherine Beard