International trade

New Zealand’s prosperity depends on trade. New Zealand is a strong advocate for free trade and the regional and international institutions that support it.


Goods trade
Goods made up 70% of New Zealand goods and services exports and were valued at $56.6 billion in the year ending December 2019. For our major primary sectors – meat, dairy, fisheries, wine, forestry and some horticulture products – between about 70 percent and 95 percent of the output they produce is exported. Without trade, between 70 and 95 percent of those industries in New Zealand would simply not exist. The impact on Māori and the regions would be especially acute.
Agricultural goods – New Zealand is the world’s 12th largest agricultural exporter by value and the #2 dairy exporter in the world. We’re the number one sheep meat exporter, the number one dairy product exporter and the second biggest wool exporter. Improving productivity, value-add and export earnings in this sector are critical to New Zealand’s sustainable economic growth. FTAs are one way the government can support such growth.
Non-agricultural goods – 38% of our merchandise exports are non-agricultural goods. Our top earners include forestry products, crude and refined petroleum, and fish products; and exports of manufactured products such as clothing and electronics are growing. However, as a whole, our non-agricultural exports have only been expanding by 1% per year in the last decade. It’s critical we work to secure the FTAs we have under negotiation, and make sure we help businesses to take full advantage of our current agreements. Other key New Zealand industries such as specialised high-tech manufacturing are equally dependent on international trade.


Services and investment
Services made up around 30% of New Zealand goods and services exports, valued at $24.7 billion (December 2019). These exports include tourism (our largest service export), transport, education and commercial services such as IT, telecommunications, accounting and film production. Services exports (and imports) allow New Zealand firms to grow their businesses by taking advantage of offshore opportunities, and new technologies are making it easier to do this digitally. Inwards and outwards foreign investment can help New Zealand businesses better integrate into supply chains, improve market access, reduce costs and increase productivity. It is important that we continue to negotiate high-quality comprehensive FTAs that cover trade in services and investment, as well as trade in goods.


Trading partners
New Zealand’s top three trade partners – China, Australia, and the European Union – accounted for approximately half of the total trade with the rest of the world. Japan and South Korea is New Zealand’s fifth and sixth largest trade partners respectively accounting for 10 percent of the total trade with the rest of the world.

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