Trade (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about trade in New Zealand?

Junior Secondary

(Years 7-10)

Colour photo of a large container ship loaded with shipping containers sitting by a dock.

Image: MOL Destiny Container Ship by Bernard Spragg on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 12/12/23


New Zealand is far away from export markets and this has made trading an important part of our economy. In early colonial days, New Zealand exported goods like seal oil, timber and flax. Today New Zealand exports a whole range of things to the world.

Over the years the way that we trade has changed, with lots of international trade agreements being signed between countries.

Historical trade

Have a look at these websites to find out about trading in New Zealand history and how it has changed today.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. Here you will find the history of Māori trade before the arrival of Europeans, how colonisation changed trade and the role of government in controlling trade today.

  • From the Te Ara homepage, choose Economy and the City.

  • Then choose Economic History and Geography.

  • Next have a look at the page about Overseas trade policy, this section covers trade history from the 1800s to recent times.

Te Ara also has information about Māori trade history and how it was affected by the arrival of European settlers.


NZHistory is another great government owned website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. It has the history of sealing and whaling — one of the earliest industries in New Zealand. It also has the history of container shipping that changed the method of transporting goods to and from our country.

  • From the homepage, choose Culture and Society.

  • Next, under the heading Pre-1840 contact, choose the link Sealers and whalers.

  • Also look under under the Transport heading for Container shipping to find how this changed shipping, the ports and the economy of New Zealand.

You can also search NZHistory using keywords or search words.

  • Try the keywords 'international trade' to find out about CER — Closer Economic Relations agreement which was an important trade agreement between New Zealand and Australia.

  • Next try using the word 'export' to read about the first ever shipment of frozen meat from New Zealand.

Tips: Te Ara and NZHistory belong to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, so information is well-researched and reliable. You can tell this from their web address — they have .govt meaning they are from government organisations. They are also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg export. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Trade agreements

Trade has been an important part of New Zealand's relationship with other countries across the world. These websites will guide you to information for exporters, trade policy, free trade agreements and the World Trade Organisation.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara also has information about trade agreements.

  • From the homepage go to the section on Government and Nation.

  • Next, choose New Zealand and the World.

  • Go to Australia and New Zealand and explore the link on Trade relations.

  • Do the same with the other countries to read what agreements are in place between New Zealand and that country.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)

MFAT is a New Zealand government department that offers advice and policies on matters of trade and foreign affairs.

Imports, exports and the economy

New Zealand imports and exports a wide range of goods and services with countries around the world. Australia, United States of America, United Kingdom, Japan, Korea and China are some of our main trading partners.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara has a good overview about how trading fits into our economy.

  • From the homepage, find the New Zealand in Brief section.

  • Next, choose Economy.

  • For information about farming exports, look at Agricultural production.

  • For information about exports in forestry, fisheries, and coal, check out Other primary production.

  • For information about manufacturing exports have a look at Secondary production.

  • For information about how New Zealand trades with the world, look at External trade.

Statistics New Zealand

This is a great website for finding out statistical information about New Zealand. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that it is run by the New Zealand Government, so the information will be reliable and relevant.

  • Enter the search words 'Imports and exports'.

  • Then scroll down the page to the link on Imports and Exports.

  • Read this page about New Zealand's overseas trade of goods and services and how they are measured.

Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

MBIE is a government agency that provides advice, rules, laws and services to support and develop New Zealand's business in the world market.

  • Look under Business and employment, then Business to find the link on Trade and tariffs.

  • This page has guidelines on tariffs in New Zealand, trade barriers, trade agreements and partnerships, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines.


There are not a lot of books written for schools about New Zealand trade. Here are a few worth looking at:

SCIS no: 1964422

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