Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


An Introduction to Indigenous Peoples and International Trade

Risa Schwartz, John Borrows

Cover for Indigenous Peoples and International Trade

Since the publication of Indigenous Peoples and International Trade there has been a number of notable international legal economic instruments incorporating provisions relevant for Indigenous Peoples, The Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA), endorsed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Taiwan in late 2021, is the first multilateral economic instrument dedicated to Indigenous Trade and Investment. The development of IPETCA incorporates ideas raised in chapters of Indigenous Peoples and International Trade including the importance Indigenous worldviews, participation of Indigenous Peoples in the negotiation of trade and investment agreements, an emphasis on ecosystems and sustainability and the deepening of economic relationships amongst Indigenous Peoples. Throughout the IPECTA there is a recognition of the catalytic role of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples due to its importance as an economic instrument.

The IPETCA conceptualizes Indigenous Peoples trade and investment through an Indigenous worldview lens. It creates a Partnership Council with direct participation of Indigenous Peoples along with government representatives from member economies, enabling co-led implementation of the co-operation activities. Through these co-operation activities, IPETCA and its Partnership Council will serve as a forum to discuss and deepen Indigenous to Indigenous trade.

Looking forward, the next step for Indigenous Trade would be true mainstreaming of provisions for Indigenous Peoples in binding Free Trade Agreements which may be realized this year through the conclusion of negotiations for a proposed New Zealand-United Kingdom bilateral free trade agreement. The two parties have released an Agreement in Principle (AIP) which sets out multiple chapters mainstreaming provisions for Māori, including market access provisions the prioritize early tariff elimination on a range of products, such as Manuka honey, horticultural goods, and seafood that are a priority to Māori. The AIP proposes provisions important to Māori in the Environment Chapter, Trade and Gender and Intellectual Property. The AIP promises a Chapter on Indigenous Trade that will recognize the original Treaty relationship between the UK and Māori, as the British Crown was one of the original signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi, as well as recognizing the value of Māori economy, traditional knowledge and Māori world view. In Indigenous Peoples and International Trade, the chapters on Environment, Traditional Knowledge and the (unsuccessful) negotiation of an Indigenous Peoples Chapter in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) provide a foundational understanding of the these innovative inclusive trade provisions in the UK-New Zealand AIP.

Moving forward in 2022 and beyond, the concepts explored by trade law and Indigenous and Aboriginal law experts in Indigenous Peoples and International Trade will continue to be of importance for economists, trade policy analysts and trade lawyers. The future promises more inclusive and sustainable trade agreements which either mainstream Indigenous related provisions, or include Trade and Indigenous Peoples chapters.

Indigenous Peoples and International Trade by John Borrows and Risa Schwartz

About The Authors

Risa Schwartz

Risa Schwartz is a sole practitioner, focusing on international law and the intersections between trade law, environmental law and Indigenous rights. Risa was a senior research fel...

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John Borrows

John Borrows is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School in British Columbia. He is the author of numerous publications, including Resur...

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