The Waitangi Tribunal has asked to hear further argument on whether it should hold an urgent inquiry into the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
It has five claims this month from a range of prominent Māori individuals, and organisations, who say the trade deal could breach their treaty rights.
The tribunal said the claims raised matters of importance not just to Māori, but to New Zealand as a whole.
But it said the secrecy of the TPP negotiations was a problem for the claimants and the tribunal - and so is the timing.
The presiding officer, Michael Doogan, said if the negotiations concluded within a few weeks, which was possible, there was no realistic prospect of a tribunal inquiry and report in that time.
He said if they were not concluded by then, the tribunal would review its position - but it was not convinced it should try to intervene at this late stage.
Judge Doogan has asked claimants to explain why they did not file their claims earlier.
He has also asked the Crown for more information - including whether the TPP would include a clause protecting Māori rights under the Treaty of Waitangi.
The tribunal will hear from both sides at a meeting in Wellington next Thursday.