Electronic commerce could be worth up to $200 billion a year by the turn of the century, yet the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is restricting New Zealand's participation in a vital area of this market - cryptography.
MFAT sets its policy in this area with the help of the Government Communications Security Bureau, the agency responsible for electronic intelligence gathering. The GCSB vets applications for licenses to export encryption technology on a case-by-case basis, often taking up to eight or nine months before approving or declining an application. For companies like CES Communications of Christchurch this can be frustrating, but for at least one US company it has proven nearly fatal. In this area New Zealand follows the lead set by the US.