21 Oct 2021

New Zealand free trade deal with UK promises to 'drive collaboration' with legal regulators

Draft agreement will promote cross-border legal services, claims UK government, and smooth path to Trans-Pacific Partnership membership

Wellington Cable Car, the landmark of New Zealand.

Wellington Shutterstock; Robert CHG

A free trade deal will ‘drive collaboration’ between UK and New Zealand regulators and promote the cross-border exchange of legal services by making it easier for lawyers to practice in both jurisdictions, the UK government has said. 

The draft deal, sealed today between the UK and New Zealand after 16 months of negotiations, is the latest to be reached by the UK after its departure from the European Union as it looks to gain a greater foothold in the Indo-Pacific market. 

The Department for International Trade (DIT) said the new deal will promote cooperation between legal regulators to lower barriers to local practice and encourage relevant authorities to create ‘efficient and transparent’ routes to recognition of professional qualifications. 

Under the agreement, UK and New Zealand lawyers will be able to continue to provide legal services related to their home jurisdictions, foreign law and international law, as well as to provide arbitration and mediation services related to international, foreign or their home jurisdiction law in the other country’s territory without needing to requalify, the DIT added. 

UK lawyers will also benefit from improved business travel arrangements, allowing UK companies to set up shop more easily in New Zealand. 

The new deal was welcomed by the Law Society of England and Wales, which said the agreement ‘reflects the importance of market access for services in both economies’. 

Stephanie Boyce, Law Society president, added that the deal “confirms existing rights of UK and New Zealand lawyers to advise clients in their home country and international law”. 

She added: “A challenge for trade negotiations is that many barriers to trade in legal services are ‘behind the border’ and are not covered by FTAs. Therefore, it’s vital there is further cooperation to advance seamless cross-border provision of legal services, as indicated in the proposed regulatory dialogue between relevant authorities in the legal sectors of both countries,” she said. 

According to the Law Society, the agreement’s proposed chapter on domestic regulation is a first in New Zealand and UK trade practices.

Nick Robbins, founder and director of UK legal recruiters Nicholas Scott, said the deal also brings "very good news for a candidate-short lawyer market in London" considering the high value often placed on New Zealand-trained lawyers in the UK, particularly those with corporate, banking and finance backgrounds. 

Robbins added that New Zealand lawyers will also appeal to many UK and US firms that are struggling amid the post-pandemic transactional boom and ongoing war for talent, especially at the more junior levels. 

In addition to the overall facilitation of legal service trade, the UK government expects the new deal to ‘pave the way’ for the UK to join the six-member Asia-Pacific trade treaty known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), for which it entered negotiations in June. 

Among the other deals reached by the UK in the wake of Brexit are its partnerships with Norway, Japan and Australia.