Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (New Zealand)

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Manatū Aorere
Agency overview
JurisdictionNew Zealand
Headquarters195 Lambton Quay,
41°17′02″S 174°46′32″E / 41.283882°S 174.775604°E / -41.283882; 174.775604
Annual budgetTotal budgets for 2019/20[1]
Vote Foreign Affairs and Trade
Vote Official Development Assistance
Ministers responsible
Agency executive
  • Chris Seed,
    Chief Executive and Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) (Māori: Manatū Aorere) is the public service department of New Zealand charged with advising the government on foreign and trade policy, and promoting New Zealand's interests in trade and international relations.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) was first established as the Department of External Affairs (NZDEA) on 11 June 1943 through an Act of Parliament. This decision was prompted by a need for New Zealand to conduct its own external relations and because New Zealand's neighbour Australia already had its own Department of External Affairs since 1921. Prior to that, New Zealand's interests had been represented overseas by the United Kingdom. The establishment of the External Affairs Department was accompanied by the creation of a foreign service and the establishment of diplomatic missions in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Soviet Union between 1942 and 1944.[2] Like its similarly named Australian and Canadian counterparts, the NZDEA was named "External Affairs" rather than "Foreign Affairs" in deference to the British Government's responsibility for conducting foreign policy on behalf of the British Empire and later the Commonwealth of Nations.[3]

From 1969 to 1988, the Ministry was known as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Between 1988 and 1993, the Ministry was renamed the Ministry of External Relations and Trade (MERT). The NZDEA and the MFA was administered by the Prime Minister's Department until 1975. Between 1946 and 1975, the Secretary of External/Foreign Affairs also served concurrently as the Permanent Head of the Prime Minister's Department. For much of this period, several New Zealand Prime Ministers including Peter Fraser, Walter Nash, and Keith Holyoake held the External Affairs portfolio. MFAT had no relation to an earlier Department of External Affairs, which was responsible for administrating New Zealand's South Pacific island dependencies of Niue, the Cook Islands, Tokelau, and Samoa between 1919 and 1943. In 1943, that aforementioned department was renamed the Department of Island Territories. In 1975, the Island Territories Department was dissolved and its functions were absorbed back into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[4]


The ministry represents New Zealand interests to other governments, including at the United Nations, APEC, TPPA and the WTO. It takes an active role in the Asia-Pacific region, and has been involved in regional security initiatives such as the RAMSI intervention in the Solomon Islands, and negotiating and implementing a peace agreement in Bougainville. It is active in developing export opportunities for local companies, and in 2008 negotiated a free trade agreement with China.

It used to sponsor the Centre for Strategic Studies New Zealand in conjunction with other NZ Government ministries, though the centre is now part of Victoria University of Wellington.


The New Zealand overseas development aid agency New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) was a semi-autonomous agency within the ministry, until it was brought back into the ministry as the International Development Group (IDG). It is a major provider of aid to the Pacific.


The Ministry serves 4 portfolios, 4 ministers and 2 associate minister.[5]

Rt Hon Winston Peters Lead Minister (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon Todd McClay Minister for Trade Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon Nicola Grigg Minister of State for Trade
Hon Simon Watts Minister of Climate Change
Hon Nicola Willis Associate Minister of Climate Change

Organisational structure[edit]

The Ministry has 653 staff based in Wellington and 661 staff overseas, with consulates and embassies in 53 posts worldwide.

Secretaries of Foreign Affairs and Trade[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Total Appropriations for Each Vote". Budget 2019. The Treasury.
  2. ^ Malcolm Templeton, ed., An Eye, An Ear, And a Voice, p.1.
  3. ^ Alan Watt, "The Department of Foreign Affairs," in The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World, ed. Zara Steiner (London: Times Books Limited, 1982), p.35; James Eary, "The Department of External Affairs," in The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World, p.96.
  4. ^ Malcolm Templeton, ed., An Eye, An Ear, And a Voice, pp.1-2.
  5. ^ "Our Ministers". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  6. ^ McKinnon, Don (28 June 1999). "McKinnon welcomes new MFAT Secretary" (Press release). Archived from the original on 12 June 2016.
  7. ^ State Services Commission (21 May 2002). "CEO Appointment: MFAT" (Press release). New Zealand Government. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016.
  8. ^ Swann, Allan (30 April 2009). "Mfat culture change to be led by NZ Post CEO John Allen". National Business Review. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016.
  9. ^ Rutherford, Hamish (3 March 2015). "Former diplomat Brook Barrington to head MFAT". Fairfax Media.
  10. ^ State Services Commission (19 December 2018). "Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade appointed". Retrieved 8 June 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • An eye, an ear and a voice: 50 years in New Zealand’s external relations edited by Malcolm Templeton (1993, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington NZ) ISBN 0-477-03725-9
  • Undiplomatic Dialogue: Letters between Carl Berendsen and Alister McIntosh 1943-1952 edited by Ian McGibbon (1993, Auckland University Press, Auckland NZ) ISBN 1-86940-095-X
  • Unofficial Channels: Letters between Alister McIntosh and Foss Shanahan, George Laking and Frank Corner 1946-1966 edited by Ian McGibbon (1999, Victoria University Press, Wellington NZ) ISBN 0-86473-365-8

External links[edit]