Let’s try that again: Happy new year!

by | Dec 21, 2021 | Trade Working Blog


In another year of disruption and loss there have been some surprising wins for trade.

The kindest thing that could be said about 2021 is that things didn’t quite work out as planned.  We did not defeat the pandemic and lives and livelihoods continued to be lost. While economic growth and trade flows showed an upswing during the year, the recovery is patchy with significant divergence between developed and developing economies.  We end the year with a high degree of uncertainty about the new variant and with supply chains continuing to feel the impact of high shipping costs and logistical challenges. 

APEC delivers …

One bright light this year has been APEC which New Zealand has chaired entirely virtually.  APEC has often been referred to, sometimes unflatteringly, as “A Perfect Excuse for a Conversation, but this year, when dialogue, co-operation and community were sorely needed, APEC came into its own.  Not only did the pandemic not disrupt continuing engagement between Ministers, business people and officials, but the outcomes from the APEC Leaders’ Statement were ones that could be warmly welcomed by business, both in terms of pandemic response and addressing the challenge of intensifying the economic recovery

The business input into APEC 21 was led by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). ABAC’s final report under the theme of “People, Place and Prosperity – Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura”, contained 43 specific recommendations and five annexes containing further detailed advocacy including in areas such as support for the WTO, climate leadership and Indigenous development.  Look inside the report for some strong recommendations on digital trade, an agenda which can only grow in the coming decade.

And the sun came out on trade too, occasionally

A number of trade policy developments served to warm the heart.  The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) concluded at the end of 2022 was ratified and will come into force on 1 January 2022.  After some anxious moments, an exciting Agreement in Principle on a future FTA was reached between the United Kingdom and New Zealand and we look forward to completion of this final agreement in early 2022.  No such breakthrough was achieved with the European Union: thanks to the French Presidential election, the negotiation will extend into another year with no certainty that the differences that exist between the parties over agricultural trade can be reconciled. 

Meanwhile the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) burst into life with accession applications under consideration from the UK, China and Chinese Taipei.   These negotiations will not be easy, but they show that some economies see in CPTPP an ambitious, high quality and comprehensive agreement that can assist their economic development.  It is to be regretted that the United States does not see itself as re-joining CPTPP any time soon.  The door remains open – for now – as it does for India to rejoin RCEP. 

 Options for exporters

New Zealand will derive only marginal immediate commercial benefits from RCEP and an expanded CPTPP because of the extensive network of FTAs we already have in the region.  The broader, strategic benefits are however significant and New Zealand exporters benefit when we have a wide range of market options to choose from.  That’s why this year we published a report on future FTA partners for New Zealand.    We know our negotiators have their hands full at present, but sometimes it can take a decade or more of work to build the conditions for future negotiations, which makes it all the more important to get started

Exporters also benefit when the rules of trade provide security and certainty for their businesses.

Exporters also benefit when the rules of trade provide security and certainty for their businesses. This year the ailing World Trade Organisation (WTO) got a shot in the arm from a new Director General, but Covid put paid to the 12th Ministerial Conference which had had to be postponed.  While making progress on the big picture at the WTO remains difficult, victory of sorts was snatched in a new agreement on services regulation and a new platform to help smaller businesses.  

Back here at Trade Works, we have worked to improve the functionality of our website and to make it easier to find and share the information we publish each week. In addition to ten blogs, we posted a large number of key documents to the ABAC pages as well as media releases, speeches and other items of trade news.  Our aim is to continue to help New Zealanders (and anyone interested) to make sense of trade.  In an environment like the one we are living in today, we cannot claim to be wise about the future – other than to say we expect disruption and uncertainty to be with us for some time yet.  And with that, we say – hopefully – happy new year!


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




Latest News

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...


The now widespread use of the term “Indo Pacific” to describe the region to which New Zealand belongs brings a risk of geographical confusion. When did the “Asia Pacific” become the Indo Pacific?   For thirty years or more New Zealand has sought to enhance...

NZ Herald: Turbulence in global trade

Amidst the political topsy turvy of recent weeks came the news that the Government has refreshed its Trade Recovery Strategy.  That’s good news because, for exporters and the global economy as a whole, it’s tough out there. The pandemic is by no means over, there...

Address to World Affairs Forum, 22 August 2022

ADDRESS TO THE WORLD AFFAIRS FORUM AUCKLAND, 22 AUGUST 2022 STEPHEN JACOBI EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NZ INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS FORUM TURBULENCE IN GLOBAL TRADE Thanks to Greg Thwaite for inviting me to speak to you this evening. It’s good to be back in the habit of meeting...

Trade and Climate Change: State of Play

TRADE AND CLIMATE CHANGE: STATE OF PLAY. A discussion paper prepared for the NZIBF by Adrian Macey, June 2022. Download here. Update: NZ-EU FTA The NZ-EU FTA has been finalised.  Article X.6 of the  trade and sustainable development chapter is on trade and...