Wanted! New FTA Partners

by | Jun 29, 2021 | Trade Working Blog


New research commissioned by the NZ International Business Forum (NZIBF) identifies options for New Zealand’s next tranche of trade negotiations.

Trade is the country’s lifeblood and trade has boosted the economy during the pandemic.  Getting products to market is critical. New Zealand has done incredibly well over the last thirty years to open new markets, but now is the time to start thinking about potential new targets.  That’s why NZIBF has commissioned Sense Partners to provide a forward-looking, data-driven assessment of priority partners for the future.  The report – “Wanted! New FTA Partners” –  is being released at simultaneous events in Auckland and Wellington on 29 June 2021.

Busy trade agenda

New Zealand’s trade negotiating agenda is entering a new phase.  The “mega-regionals” have now been completed – the little known RCEP and earlier the very well-known CPTPP.  This means that New Zealand’s long-term strategy of seeking transformative agreements with partners in the Asia Pacific region, first outlined in the early 1990s, has largely run its course.  

That does not mean of course that the region is trade barrier-free: some of the agreements we have negotiated still do not provide tariff-free market access, especially in dairy and meat, with important partners like Japan, Korea and Canada. We have to work to upgrade and expand existing agreements, as we have recently done with China, and we have important negotiations with the EU, the UK and others to complete.  The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is badly in need of attention.

Trading ahead

The report notes that despite our success New Zealand still has no existing or planned preferential market access with almost 40 percent of the world’s economy and consumers.  While the United States comprises a significant proportion of this, there is plenty of scope to start now to look at expanding trade relations with a range of other partners.

The report notes that despite our success New Zealand still has no existing or planned preferential market access with almost 40 percent of the world’s economy and consumers. 

The report uses a “FTA Partner Suitability Index” to identify some 22 economies which New Zealand should be thinking about seriously with an eye to future trade growth.  This is not one list to rule them all: some of the potential partners present negotiating difficulties; others are not well-known to New Zealand. What is important is that we start the process of thinking about future partners and how best to engage with them, whether on the basis of high quality and comprehensive FTAs or other means. We should be thinking too both about our traditional areas of export strength and also how to include new sectors like services, digital and the creative economy as well as the needs of SMEs, Māori business and women entrepreneurs.

What’s next ?

We’re keen for feedback on these ideas. The report is a means to develop a conversation with exporters, stakeholders and the Government about where our priorities might lie in the future, recognising that we have a busy agenda today to get on with and finish.

FTAs are not the only factor in developing export business.  At best they open doors which businesses can then go through and they provide an environment within which costs are lowered, time can be saved and risks are mitigated.  As the pandemic has shown, trade has continued to uphold the New Zealand economy through the crisis.  Other storms are likely to appear in the future and while we are rightly doing the business of today, it is useful to build for tomorrow.

This post was prepared by Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director of the NZ International Business Forum. Read the Sense Partners’ report here.


Register to stay up to date with latest news, as well as saving and discussing articles you’re interested in.

Latest News


Perhaps a cyclone was after all a fitting backdrop for the meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) which was held in Auckland on 12-14 February – the global environment against which the meeting took place is decidedly stormy.  In the event the wind...


As I write this end of year dispatch, NZIBF is preparing to host the first meeting for 2023 of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).  We are looking forward to welcoming the 200 or so business leaders and senior officials from APEC member economies across the...

NZ Herald: Time to lift our game in India

Following his recent visit to India our Executive Director Stephen Jacobi penned this article advocating a more strategic approach to the further development of the relationship. The article was published by the NZ Herald on 9 December.

APEC Rolls out Priorities for 2023

Issued by the Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting - Honolulu, The United States, 13 December 2022 Aiming to provide tailwinds for member economies to strengthen recovery and resilience, as well as advance broad-based economic growth, the United States rolled out its...

NZIBF 2022 Chair Report

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2022 CHAIR’S REPORT I am pleased to present my second report on the activities and achievements of the NZ International Business Forum (NZIBF) for 2022-23, our fifteenth year of operations.  At the outset I would like to thank Members for...


New Zealand business will be represented at the APEC Leaders’ Week in Bangkok, commencing 13 November, by members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). New Zealand’s three members – Rachel Taulelei, Malcolm Johns and Anna Curzon – supported by Stephen Jacobi...

Submission to MFAT for CPTPP Review

30 September 2022 Phil Mellor Economic Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington (By email) Dear Phil, Thank you for your email of 1 September, seeking our comments on the three year review of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans...