An island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean located to the southeast of Australia, New Zealand shipped US$39.8 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That figure represents roughly 0.2% of overall global exports estimated at $17.547 trillion one year earlier for 2017 (calculated as of February 2, 2019).
From a continental perspective, over half (55.3%) of New Zealand’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 16.9% are sold to fellow Oceanian importers led by Australia. New Zealand shipped another 11.5% worth of goods to North America with 10.7% delivered in Europe.
Smaller percentages of New Zealand’s exported goods went to Africa (2.9%) and Latin America (1.7%) 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 2018. Also shown is each trade partner’s percentage of total New Zealand exports.
- China: US$9.6 billion (24.9% of New Zealand’s total exports)
- Australia: $5.7 billion (14.8%)
- United States: $3.7 billion (9.6%)
- Japan: $2.4 billion (6.3%)
- South Korea: $1.2 billion (3.1%)
- United Kingdom: $1 billion (2.7%)
- Singapore: $832.5 million (2.2%)
- Taiwan: $831.8 million (2.2%)
- Hong Kong: $761.5 million (2%)
- Malaysia: $702.5 million (1.8%)
- Indonesia: $675.8 million (1.8%)
- Thailand: $638.2 million (1.7%)
- Netherlands: $586 million (1.5%)
- Germany: $579 million (1.5%)
- United Arab Emirates: $533.8 million (1.4%)
Over three-quarters (77.4%) of New Zealand exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
From 2017 to 2018, leading gainers were Germany (up 14.3%), South Korea (up 13.5%), China (up 12.8%), Japan (up 5.7%) then Taiwan (up 3.9%).
Cutbacks were led by importers in the United Arab Emirates (down -14%), Hong Kong (down -13.1%) and nearby trade partner Australia (down -9.1%).
New Zealand incurred an overall -$5.2 billion trade deficit encompassing all countries, up 152% from the -$2.1 billion in red ink one year earlier.
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$1.6 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- United Arab Emirates: -$1.4 billion
- Thailand: -$1.3 billion
- South Korea: -$812 million
- Malaysia: -$729.2 million
- United States: -$723.5 million
- Italy: -$687.6 million
- Singapore: -$640.2 million
- Japan: -$630.2 million
- France: -$561 million
Among New Zealand’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, New Zealander deficits with South Korea (up 124.7%), United Arab Emirates (up 75.5%) and United States (up 43%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
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.
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 2018, New Zealand earned the highest trade surpluses at the expense of the following countries:
- China: US$944.7 million (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- Hong Kong: $696.3 million
- Australia: $672.4 million
- Philippines: $429.5 million
- Algeria: $349.7 million
- Sri Lanka: $241.3 million
- Egypt: $236.6 million
- Fiji: $222.9 million
- Taiwan: $214.4 million
- Bangladesh: $125.7 million
Among New Zealand’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, New Zealander surpluses with China (up 28.8%), Egypt (up 20.7%) and Philippines (up 4.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
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
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 4, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 4, 2019
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 4, 2019
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 4, 2019
Wikipedia, NZX 50 Index. Accessed on February 4, 2019