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'Planting a seed' for indigenous economies

APEC New Zealand officials at the midnight meeting last week.


The voices of indigenous economies have been heard in the first meeting of its kind as part of APEC, in what Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta called “pioneering work”.

More than 100 attendees joined the dialogue about “understanding and valuing indigenous economies in APEC” – part of the Senior Officials’ Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE) last week.

APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation brings together 21 economies, which represent nearly 40% of the world’s population and almost half of global trade - 74% of New Zealand’s exports go to member economies.

Efforts to better understand indigenous economies align with the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 to achieve more inclusive and sustainable trade within APEC, and ensure no-one is left behind.

Minister Mahuta said the dialogue “is like planting a seed”.

“Nurture the seed so that it may grow and flourish as we continue to work together. This work is important to improving the lives and well-being of all indigenous peoples across the Asia-Pacific region.”

Speakers from Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand and Peru shared their experiences of measuring indigenous economies including working in partnership with their indigenous peoples. They highlighted the need for reliable indigenous economic data to enable evidence based policy and targeted and informed policy responses. 

COVID-19 showed the importance of data both in understanding the impact on indigenous communities and in delivering business support and building resilience for future challenges.

There was consensus amongst the Senior Officials on the potential of indigenous economies. They encouraged New Zealand to identify areas for further co-operation on data gathering, indigenous economies, best practices and capacity and capability building for consideration by the membership.

Measuring indigenous economies is critical to illustrating the economic contribution these populations make to national economies was a theme of the dialogue.

“Data for impact, data for innovation and relationships of reciprocity” was the key message from Māori data expert Kirikowhai Mikaere.

In her opening remarks at the midnight meeting, Minister Mahuta said New Zealand’s indigenous economic growth was an integral part of its inclusive growth and prosperity.

“In less than 20 years, we have seen the Māori economy grow from NZ$16.5b to NZ$69b in 2019.

“This knowledge has created a positive narrative about the contribution of Māori to the New Zealand economy, redirected government expenditure, and seen significant capability building to increase Māori exports and trade.”

She said the dialogue would build the region’s collective understanding of indigenous economies, especially around the importance of data and the “benefits and challenges ahead”. 

- APEC 2021