Our relationship with Japan
New Zealand has strong political ties with Japan, common values and a shared interest in stability, growth and development in our region and globally. We have substantial trade, economic, tourism and people-to-people links. The New Zealand-Japan relationship dates back over 100 years, and our two countries celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations in 2012.
Since diplomatic relations were established in 1952, the relationship has grown strongly through two-way trade, economic, tourism and people-to-people links. New Zealand and Japan are both parties to the recently concluded Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Areas of further opportunity in the relationship include renewable energy, science cooperation, sports diplomacy and increased Japanese investment in New Zealand.
Our Prime Minister’s Fellowship Programme for Japanese Diet members (politicians) complements exchanges between the New Zealand and Japanese parliaments. Both parliaments have Japan/New Zealand Parliamentary Friendship Groups. The Japan New Zealand Business Council (JNZBC) and the Japan New Zealand Partnership Forum help to progress business relationships between our two countries.
As liberal democracies and market economies, we share similar views across diverse global issues from security and human rights, to disarmament. In 2013 we established a memorandum of understanding with Japan covering our defence cooperation. Whaling is an area where we disagree yet we have common interests in most other issues relating to the environment.
Science and technology
Japan is one of New Zealand’s priority science partners. This is reflected in a Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement signed in October 2009 and the establishment of a Japan-New Zealand Science Commission. Our science links with Japan have strengthened over past years with the development of scientist exchange programmes and joint research projects in areas such as functional food.
New Zealand and Japan are also working together to transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels with the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation on Hydrogen in October 2018. This partnership will allow the exchange of information to enhance hydrogen development in New Zealand.
The relationship between New Zealand and Japan is underpinned by people-to-people exchanges. Over 40 New Zealand cities and towns have active sister city relationships with Japan. There are a similar number of friendship societies. These connections are supported by:
- A working holiday scheme, enabling people up to age 30 to visit, work and study in each country for up to 12 months
- New Zealand-Japan Exchange Programme, supporting academic research
- Cultural and education exchanges supported by the Asia New Zealand Foundation
- Japanese Government programmes such as the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme, the JENESYS (Japan-East Asia Network of Exchanges for Students and Youth) Programme and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) scholarships
Our Prime Minister’s Fellowship Programme for Japanese Diet members (politicians) also complements exchanges between the New Zealand and Japanese parliaments. Both parliaments have Japan-New Zealand Parliamentary Friendship Groups.
Total trade in goods
Exports to Japan
Top exports: travel, fruit, aluminium, dairy and wood
Imports from Japan
|Top imports: vehicles and parts, mechanicl machiney, petroleum|
|GDP per capita||US$8,428|
Japan is New Zealand’s fourth-largest trading partner with two-way goods and services trade totalling around $8.8 billion in the year to June 2019. Japan is the fifth largest source of international tourists (over 115,000 in the year to June 2019) and third largest source of international students for New Zealand. The number of New Zealanders visiting Japan annually has grown rapidly over recent years and is now around 50,000.
Japan is New Zealand’s fourth largest source of foreign investment, totalling over $5 billion. Japanese companies have invested heavily in wood processing and have a significant presence in New Zealand’s regions.
The Japan New Zealand Business Council (JNZBC) and the Japan New Zealand Partnership Forum also help to progress business relationships between our two countries.
Free trade agreements with Japan
New Zealand and Japan worked together with 10 other countries on negotiations for the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). These negotiations have concluded and the text has been released. Detailed information about CPTPP and the text of the agreement can be found here.
New Zealand and Japan are both included in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations.
New Zealanders aged between 18 and 30 can apply for a 12-month working holiday visa for Japan.
To apply, you can go to the Consulate-General of Japan in Auckland, the Embassy of Japan in Wellington, or the Consular Office of Japan in Christchurch.
For more information read the Embassy of Japan's website(external link).
Following the 2018 Japan-Pacific Leaders’ Meeting (PALM8) and the joint statement by our foreign ministers, we are seeking to strengthen coordination and cooperation with Japan in the Pacific. There is potential for New Zealand and Japan to increase development cooperation, in partnership with Pacific Island countries, in areas like maritime security and safety, climate change, environment, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. Our countries have also worked closely on the Bamyan airport upgrade in Afghanistan.
Japan and New Zealand both suffered major natural disasters in 2011 and came to each other’s assistance. Japan provided an urban search and rescue team following the Canterbury earthquake, in which 28 Japanese citizens died. We provided support to Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which struck the Tohoku region, through the despatch of a urban search and rescue team . Private sector organisations and NGOs also worked with their counterparts to provide financial and other assistance in both directions. We have a close relationship in many aspects of disaster risk reduction, such as earthquake science.
- New Zealand is represented in Japan by the New Zealand Embassy, Tokyo
- Japan is represented in New Zealand by the Embassy of Japan in New Zealand, Wellington(external link)
- New Zealand also has honorary consuls in Fukuoka, Nagoya and Osaka
Recent official visits
New Zealand to Japan
- October 2019: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rt Hon Winston Peters. Joint Declaration on Cooperation in the Pacific Islands Region [DOCX, 27 KB] and Press Release(external link)
- September 2019: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to Toyko. Joint Statement(external link) and Press Release(external link)
- January 2019: Hon David Parker, Minister for Trade and Export Growth, for the first Commission meeting of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade agreement
- November 2018: Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Trevor Mallard, to meet with his counterpart Speaker Tadamori Oshima
- October 2018: Minister for Energy and Resources; and Research, Science and Innovation, Hon Megan Woods, for the Inaugural Ministerial Meeting on Hydrogen and signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Japan on Hydrogen (press release(external link))
- September 2018: Minister of Forestry and Regional Economic Development, Hon Shane Jones, for a bilateral programme
- June 2018: Hon David Parker, Minister for Trade and Export Growth; Economic Development; and Environment, for the Nikkei Forum and bilateral programme with counterparts across his portfolios
- May 2018: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rt Hon Winston Peters, to attend the eighth Japan-Pacific Leaders’ (PALM8) Meeting and hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Taro Aso, and with Foreign Minister Taro Kono (press release).
- May 2017: Prime Minister Bill English for a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Abe
- August 2016: Minister for Economic Development, Hon Steven Joyce, to advance New Zealand’s business, innovation and education interests and promote New Zealand as an investment destination
- June 2016: Minister for Māori Development, Hon Te Ururoa Flavell, led a Māori business delegation on a culture and trade mission to Japan
- May 2016: Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Hon Paul Goldsmith, represented New Zealand at the 2016 Nikkei International Conference
- July 2015: Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, to discuss the application of new vehicle and energy technologies in New Zealand
Japan to New Zealand
- June 2019: Parliamentary Vice Minister of Defence, Takako Suzuki, for a bilateral programme
- February 2019: Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Norikazu Suzuki, represented Japan at the Canterbury Earthquake commemorations (press release(external link))
- October 2018: Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono, for a bilateral programme (press release(external link))
- September 2018: MP Shinjiro Koizumi, accompanied by Takashi Yamashita, Yuko Obuchi and Tatsuo Fukuda, as the 2018 Prime Minister’s Fellow
- July 2018: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Taro Aso, for a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Peters
- February 2018: State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kazuyuki Nakane, represented Japan at the Canterbury Earthquake commemorations
- February 2017: State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobuo Kishi, represented Japan at the Canterbury Earthquake commemorations
- August 2016: Trans Pacific Partnership Minister, Nobuteru Ishihara, met with Ministers in New Zealand
- February 2015: Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kazuyuki Nakane represented Japan at the Canterbury Earthquake commemorations and had talks with Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully
- July 2014: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a State visit to New Zealand, meeting with Prime Minister John Key and members of the business community in Auckland. Mr Abe also travelled to Christchurch where he laid a wreath at the site of the former CTV Building where 28 Japanese nationals lost their lives in the 2011 Canterbury earthquake
- February 2014: Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Norio Mitsuya represented Japan at the Canterbury Earthquake commemorations