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Merchandise Export Growth Falters

Overseas Merchandise Trade - May 1999

A three year period of growth in merchandise exports during 1996, 1997 and 1998 appears to be ending, Government Statistician Len Cook said today. The exports trend, which has been flat over the last four months, is now turning down.

The trend in merchandise imports continues to show strong growth. This growth, in combination with the weakening export performance, has caused a further deterioration in the trade balance. Contributing to this worsening trend are the decline in New Zealand's terms of trade, the rising New Zealand dollar, increased imports of cars and demand for household consumption goods. Continued steady growth in tourism receipts is counteracting some of the negative consequences for New Zealand's Balance of Payments, Len Cook said.

The contraction in the value of exports has affected a wide range of commodities. Exports of wool, meat and skins have been weak for some time. Latest statistics show that export receipts from dairy products, mechanical machinery, aluminium, and iron and steel have also deteriorated. In contrast, exports of fruit, wood and seafood have strengthened.

The markets which have been the most affected by the decline in exports are Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region), the People's Republic of China, Russia, Belgium, Japan, Brazil and Venezuela.

For May 1999 provisional merchandise exports were $1,984 million.

For the year ended May 1999 the provisional merchandise trade balance was in deficit by $1,497 million. In current dollars this is a record annual deficit but in constant dollars or as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product it is smaller than some deficits recorded in the mid-1980s.


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