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Our relationship with the EU

We have a close and wide-ranging relationship with the EU and its member states, based on shared histories, strong personal and trade connections and a like-mindedness on international issues. We share a deep commitment to democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and a sense of international citizenship—our common values see us working together on many global issues including international security, climate change, and development in the Pacific.

The 28 EU Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The UK voted in June 2016 to leave the European Union. We are following the process of Brexit closely.

Formal connections

Until recently, our relationship was guided by the 2007 non-treaty level Joint Declaration on Relations and Cooperation, supported by a range of formal and informal instruments and arrangements. 

Negotiations to replace the Joint Declaration with a treaty-level agreement, known as the Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (PARC), commenced in July 2012 and were concluded in July 2014. The text of the PARC is currently going through legal verification before it can be signed, ratified and enter into force.

Science and innovation

The EU is our most significant science and innovation relationship and more than half of New Zealand’s researchers have an active collaboration with a European partner. There are particularly strong links with the UK, Germany, and France. Our science and innovation relationship with the EU is supported by the 2009 Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement, and has been instrumental in creating stronger links with Europe.

Partners in Pacific development

The EU is one of New Zealand’s most important and active partners in the Pacific. It's a member of the Pacific Island Forum’s ‘Post-Forum Dialogue’ and participates in the annual EU/Australia/New Zealand Trilateral on Pacific issues.

The EU ranks as the seventh-largest provider of development assistance to the region, and we coordinate closely to ensure our investments are complementary. EU programmes include climate change and the environment, renewable energy, sustainable economic development, water and sanitation, maritime issues, and disaster response.

The EU is also New Zealand’s most important partner in the Pacific in the energy sector and we have joint energy projects in Samoa, Kiribati, Cook Islands and Tuvalu. The Pacific Energy Summit co-hosted by the EU and New Zealand (March 2013, Auckland), attracted $635 million in donor commitments for renewable energy projects in the Pacific.


Year ending March 2019 statistics

Total trade

NZ$23,693 million


Exports to EU

NZ$9,393 million

Top exports: sheep meat, fruit, wine

Imports from EU

NZ$14,301 million

Top imports: motor vehicles, parts and accessories

The EU remains an important goods market for New Zealand, particularly for high value agricultural goods.  Our main goods exports are sheepmeat, followed by wine, fruit, butter and dairy spreads.   The EU is our single largest source of goods imports, which are dominated by motor vehicles, aircraft and retail medicines. As with many of our developed country trading partners, there’s a significant services component to our trade relationship. The EU is our third largest export destination for trade in services (after Australia and the US) and our second-largest source of services imports. We have significant two-way trade in tourism, transport, education and commercial services.

But we don’t have a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, meaning our trading relationship is governed by commitments made in the WTO Uruguay Round, over 20 years ago.

New Zealand is one of only six WTO members without a trade agreement with the EU either concluded or currently under negotiation. While the PARC will strengthen the foundations of our political relationship, we have continued to work towards a comprehensive treaty-level partnership with the European Union that includes an FTA. In 2014 Prime Minister Key and the then-Presidents of the European Commission and European Council issued a Joint Declaration on deepening EU-NZ relations. In this, they agreed among other things to ‘reflect on options to progress the trade and economic relationship, including the parameters for the possible opening of negotiations to further liberalise trade and investment between the EU and New Zealand’.

In a further Joint Statement on 29 October 2015, Prime Minister Key, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk committed to start the process for negotiations to achieve swiftly a deep and comprehensive high-quality Free Trade Agreement.

The EU and New Zealand already have several agreements designed to facilitate access to each other's markets. These cover areas such as animal products and mutual recognition.

Two-way investment is also strong with the EU ranked second after Australia for foreign direct investment in New Zealand, and the EU is New Zealand’s third largest destination for direct investment abroad (as at March 2015).


Recent official visits

New Zealand to the EU

  • October 2015: Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Trade Tim Groser visited Brussels and met with Commission President Juncker, Council President Tusk, and a range of EU Commissioners
  • September 2015: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully visited Brussels and met with EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, EU HRVP Federica Mogherini, and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica.
  • June 2015: Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Minister of Revenue Todd McClay visited Brussels, and met with European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici
  • April 2015: Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs Paul Goldsmith met with European Commissioners in Brussels
  • January 2015: Trade and Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser met with European Commissioners in Brussels 
  • November 2014: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully visited Brussels (NATO Summit) and met with EU HRVP Federica Mogherini

EU to New Zealand

  • March 2015: European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Australia and New Zealand met with the New Zealand European Union Parliamentary Friendship Group and other business groups
  • December 2014: Deputy Secretary General, European External Action Service, Helga Schmid met with the Minister of Defence, Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman and held an informal security dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • March 2014: Chief Operating Officer, European External Action Service, David O’Sullivan met officials to share information and views on global events and regional developments


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