As a trade dependent economy, geographically distant from export markets, New Zealand is a firm supporter of free and open trade. We have one of the most open market economies in the world.

What is New Zealand's trade policy?

The Government wants to ensure that economic growth in New Zealand is both sustainable and inclusive and that our trade policy supports that goal.

New Zealand is a strong supporter of international trade rules underpinned by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Over the past three decades, successive New Zealand Governments have reformed our trade rules by removing many barriers to imports, ending most subsidies, and ensuring that the rules relating to foreign investment are designed to encourage productive foreign investment in New Zealand.

We’re consistently ranked by the World Bank and others as one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. We believe that open markets and the free flow of trade are ultimately in everyone’s best interests.

However, some elements of domestic public opinion are increasingly sceptical about trade agreements, and there is increasing public interest in the role that trade policy might play in contributing to solutions on issues of wider societal concern - including to help address inequality (gender, indigenous peoples' rights), as well as on climate change and as an enabler of regional economic development.

Responding to these concerns and interests, the Government has launched a process to develop a progressive and inclusive 'Trade For All' Agenda, in consultation with New Zealanders. This process will be an opportunity to hear, acknowledge, and respond to the concerns and interests of New Zealanders in an ever-more complex global trading environment.

A work programme for public consultation and engagement is currently being designed, but in the meantime more information on the Trade For All agenda and the process can be found on the Trade For All Agenda webpage

Why does New Zealand advocate free trade?

Trade is critical to New Zealand's economy
Trade is critical to New Zealand's economy

Trade is critical to New Zealand’s economy. We can only pay for the goods and services we import from overseas by selling exports to other countries. At the moment, international trade (exports and imports) make up around 60% of New Zealand’s total economic activity.

New Zealand has an open economy that places few barriers in the way of foreign service providers or imports. But our exporters - particularly agricultural products exporters - often encounter barriers overseas, such as steep tariffs, quantitative restrictions, and anti-competitive local subsidies.

Other non-tariff measures such as regulatory barriers also affect services exporters. This is why New Zealand pursues an active free trade agenda. We need to establish and maintain our exporters’ access to markets that matter so we can advance and safeguard New Zealand’s interests.

Free trade doesn’t just benefit our exporters. Our open economy has meant New Zealand importers and consumers now enjoy access to a much wider and competitively priced range of goods and services.

Since 2000, FTAs have flourished worldwide. As our global competitors develop new networks of trade agreements,  New Zealand needs to match their progress or risk our exporters being disadvantaged.

New Zealand’s participation in the WTO, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) among others, supports our free trade policy.

Goods exports

New Zealand is the #1 dairy exporter in the world
New Zealand is the #1 dairy exporter in the world

Goods made up 70% of New Zealand goods and services exports and were valued at $53.6 billion in the year ending December 2017.

Agricultural goods – New Zealand is the world’s 12th largest agricultural exporter by value. 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.


Services made up around 30% of New Zealand goods and services exports, valued at $22.7 billion (December 2017). These exports include tourism (our largest service export), transport, education and commercial services such as IT, telecommunications, accounting and film production. 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.