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Our relationship with Japan

New Zealand has strong political ties with Japan, common views and a shared interest in the stability, growth and development of the Asia Pacific region. We have substantial trade, economic, tourism and people-to-people links. New Zealand and Japan links date back over 100 years, and our two countries celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations in 2012.

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

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.  We have a Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement with Japan signed in 2009.


We have numerous exchange programmes including a working holiday scheme, cultural and educational exchanges supported by the Asia New Zealand Foundation and a range of Japanese organisations. There are 44 cities and towns with active sister city relationships with Japan, and a similar number of friendship societies.


2016 statistics

Total trade in goods 

$6.4 billion


Exports to Japan

$2.98 billion

Top exports: aluminium, cheese, kiwifruit, beef

Imports from Japan

$3.4 billion

Top imports: motor vehicles, electronic goods


US$4.6 trillion

GDP per capita US$39,110   
GDP growth  1.2%  

We have a strong and complementary trading relationship founded on long-established contracts, reliability and high quality products. We supply food and industrial materials, such as wood and aluminium, and Japan exports finished industrial goods and machinery. Services exports between our two countries are a big part of our trading relationship, particularly in the education and tourism sectors. Japan is New Zealand’s third largest source of overseas students (after China and India), and the fourth largest source of tourists. Japan is also New Zealand's fifth largest source of foreign direct investment, with significant investments in the forestry sector, in particular.

Free trade agreements with Japan

New Zealand and Japan worked together with 10 other Asia-Pacific countries on negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership. These negotiations have concluded and the text has been released. Detailed information about TPP and the text of the agreement can be found here

New Zealand and Japan are both included in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations.

Working Holiday Scheme

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).


Our countries have worked closely on the Bamyan airport upgrade in Afghanistan and are pursuing a closer relationship in development assistance projects in the Pacific islands region.

Natural disasters

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.


Recent official visits

New Zealand to Japan
  • May 2018: Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, visited Japan 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. See the joint press release by the two Foreign Ministers here [DOCX, 44 KB].
  • August 2016: Economic Development Minister, Steven Joyce, visited Japan to advance New Zealand’s business, innovation and education interests and promote New Zealand as an investment destination
  • June 2016: Minister for Māori Development, Te Ururoa Flavell, led a Māori business delegation on a culture and trade mission to Japan
  • May 2016: Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Paul Goldsmith, represented New Zealand at the 2016 Nikkei International Conference
  • July 2015: Minister of Transport Simon Bridges visited Japan to discuss the application of new vehicle and energy technologies in New Zealand
Japan to New Zealand
  • August 2016: Japan’s 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.


News & Events

Anzac Day 2019 in Japan


Anzac Day is a national day of commemoration observed on 25 April each year. It commemorates those who died serving New Zealand during war while honouring returned and current servicemen and women, past and present.