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NZ trade in the red with EU, in the black with China

5 June 2019

New Zealand bought more from the European Union (EU) than it sold in return, resulting in the largest trade deficit of any trading partner for the year ended March 2019, Stats NZ said today.

The trade deficit with EU was at $5.0 billion.

In contrast, New Zealand sold more to China than it bought in return, resulting in the biggest trade surplus of any trading partner at $5.1 billion.

“New Zealand imports many cars and lots of machinery from the EU, which is reflected in our large and growing trade deficit with the trading bloc,” international statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said.

“This contrasts with our expanding trade surplus with China, which is dominated by exports of dairy products, logs, travel services, and meat.”

Overall, New Zealand remained in a goods and services trade surplus with the rest of the world, reaching $1.7 billion in the March 2019 year.

Trade deficit with EU widens

Over recent years, New Zealand has had a widening trade deficit with the EU, reaching $5.0 billion in the March 2019 year. Exports totalled $9.4 billion (11 percent of total exports) and imports totalled $14.4 billion (18 percent of total imports).

“Among our top five EU trading nations, we have trade deficits with Germany, France, and Italy, and trade surpluses with the UK and Netherlands, which you can easily see using our new trade dashboard,” Mr Dolan said.

“The dashboard shows that our deficit with Germany was driven by vehicle imports, while travel services were a major contributor to our trade surplus with the UK.”

The deficit with the EU was mostly due to the high value of cars and machinery New Zealand imported from the region. In the March 2019 year, vehicles, parts, and accessories imported from the EU were valued at $2.4 billion. The EU was New Zealand’s second-largest import market for vehicles, parts, and accessories, behind Japan at $2.5 billion. Mechanical machinery and equipment were also a large contributor to the overall trade deficit with the EU, worth $2.3 billion in the March 2019 year.

New Zealand exported $9.4 billion worth of goods and services to the EU for the March 2019 year. Travel services continued to be the most valuable export to the EU at $2.4 billion, followed by meat and edible offal and fruit.

Trade surplus with China widens

In contrast, New Zealand had a $5.1 billion goods and services trade surplus with China for the March 2019 year, the largest surplus of all our trading partners. Our trade balance with China switched from a deficit to a surplus in 2013.

In the March 2019 year, the top exports to China were milk powder, butter, and cheese, reaching $4.5 billion and accounting for one-quarter of New Zealand’s exports to China.

Logs and wood were the second-largest export, worth $3.1 billion.

Travel was also a significant contributor to New Zealand’s overall surplus with China, worth $3.0 billion. Spending by holidaymakers and international students made up most of this.

“Students from China contributed $1.4 billion to our economy,” Mr Dolan said.

“Our next highest source of student spending was from India at $1.1 billion.”

In the March 2019 year, imports from China were valued at $13.1 billion. Top imports were electrical machinery and equipment (such as mobile phones), mechanical machinery and equipment (such as portable computers), and textiles and textile articles (such as clothing).

The Government Statistician authorises all statistics and data we publish.

For more information about these statistics:
• Visit Goods and services trade by country: Year ended March 2019
• See CSV files for download


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