An island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean located to the southeast of Australia, New Zealand shipped US$37.4 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 10.8% gain since 2016 but a -2.1% downturn from 2019 to 2020. That figure represents roughly 0.2% of overall global exports estimated at $18.709 trillion one year earlier during 2019.
Applying a continental lens, well over half (58.4%) of New Zealand’s exports by value in 2020 were delivered to Asian countries while 14.6% were sold to fellow Oceanian importers led by neighboring Australia. New Zealand shipped another 12.2% worth of goods to North America with 10.1% delivered in Europe.
Smaller percentages of New Zealand’s exported goods arrived in Africa (2.6%) and Latin America (1.5%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
New Zealand’s Top 15 Trade Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of New Zealand’s top trade partners, countries that imported the most shipments by dollar value from New Zealand during 2020. Also shown is each trade partner’s percentage of total New Zealand exports.
- China: US$10.8 billion (29% of New Zealand’s total exports)
- Australia: $4.8 billion (12.7%)
- United States: $3.8 billion (10.3%)
- Japan: $2.3 billion (6.1%)
- South Korea: $1.1 billion (3%)
- United Kingdom: $961.6 million (2.6%)
- Taiwan: $839.8 million (2.2%)
- Hong Kong: $746.9 million (2%)
- Indonesia: $693.7 million (1.9%)
- Malaysia: $677.5 million (1.8%)
- Singapore: $670.6 million (1.8%)
- Thailand: $613 million (1.6%)
- Germany: $595.5 million (1.6%)
- Vietnam: $532.7 million (1.4%)
- Saudi Arabia: $514.7 million (1.4%)
Almost four-fifths (79.3%) of New Zealand exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
From 2019 to 2020, gains were led by Saudi Arabia (up 17.5%), Germany (up 10%), Taiwan (up 9.2%) then the United States (up 7.5%).
Declines were led by importers in Australia (down -8.2%), Hong Kong (down -7.7%) then Thailand (down -4.1%).
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
New Zealand incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- Germany: -US$1.2 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Thailand: -$869.8 million
- Italy: -$696.1 million
- South Korea: -$686 million
- United Arab Emirates: -$510 million
- Malaysia: -$399.2 million
- Singapore: -$335.8 million
- France: -$315.2 million
- Spain: -$275.6 million
- Switzerland: -$199.6 million
Among New Zealand’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, New Zealand’s deficits with South Korea (up 34.1%), Spain (up 23.9%) and Switzerland (up 7.9%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate New Zealand’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for New Zealand to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Overall New Zealand generated a $223.8 million trade surplus for 2020, reversing a -$4.1 billion deficit in 2019.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
In 2020, New Zealand earned the highest trade surpluses at the expense of the following countries.
- China: US$2.4 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- Hong Kong: $679.9 million
- Philippines: $380.6 million
- Saudi Arabia: $285.8 million
- Taiwan: $272.6 million
- Algeria: $256.1 million
- Australia: $256 million
- United States: $255.1 million
- Sri Lanka: $242.1 million
- Japan: $171.8 million
Among New Zealand’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, New Zealand’s surpluses with Saudi Arabia (up 83.8%), Taiwan (up 47.3%) and Sri Lanka (up 5.5%) grew on a percentage basis from 2019 to 2020.
In addition, New Zealand went from deficit in 2019 to surplus for 2020 in its trade with the United States (-$657.3 million in 2019) and Japan (-$469.6 million in 2019).
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate New Zealand’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for New Zealand to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing New Zealand Trade Partners
Not one New Zealand-based corporation ranks among the Forbes Global 2000.
The NZX50 Index is the main stock market index for New Zealand. Based on that index, the following companies are among leading stock companies in New Zealand that have the highest capitalization values.
- Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (financial services)
- Coats Group PLC (sewing supplies, zippers, fasteners)
- Kathmandu Holdings Limited (outdoor clothing, equipment)
- Mainfreight Limited (logistics, transportation)
- Nuplex Industries Limited (resins for decorative/industrial/protective coatings)
- Steel & Tube Holdings Limited (building materials)
- The a2 Milk Company Limited (dairy products)
See also New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports and New Zealand’s Top 10 Imports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World FactbookCountry Profiles. Accessed on February 24, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 24, 2021