New Zealand and Japan

Japan is a major bilateral and regional partner of New Zealand and one of New Zealand’s anchor trading relationships. Japan is New Zealand’s fourth largest trading partner (after Australia the United States and China), with exports totalling NZ$3.21 billion to the end of December 2012. As a supplier of high quality coal, aluminium and agricultural products, New Zealand business engagement is strategically important for Japan. For Japan New Zealand is a reliable, secure and sustainable supplier of safe food and important natural resources. For New Zealand Japan is a major market for dairy products, fruit and vegetables, beef, wood products and fish. There are opportunities in Japan also to expand sales of non-traditional products from New Zealand’s expanding information technology, biotech and creative industries.

According to published Japanese figures, the cumulative value of Japanese investment in New Zealand 31 March 2012 totaled NZ$6.8 billion. Japanese companies provide employment for over 9,000 New Zealanders. Indirect employment arising from this investment is significantly higher.

Japanese investment in New Zealand reflects the structure of trading between the two countries: much of it is to secure supply (eg forestry, fisheries, food and beverages and aluminium). Investment also covers companies distributing goods such as automobiles and consumer electronics and the provision of services such as tourism. In recent years, Japanese investment has grown in other areas such as education, information technology and bio-tech and energy areas.

Japan is also a fifth largest source of tourist revenue for New Zealand with 72,080 arrivals in 2012, an increase of 4.5% over the previous year.

New Zealand has for some time sought to secure a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Japan but was unable to secure agreement to launch negotiations prior to Japan joing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Earlier Japan had also agreed to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) launched in Novermber 2012. RCEP negotiations commenced on May 2013.

Japan’s membereship of TPP is a game-changer in several respects. Not only does it bring forward the possibility of a free-trade relationship between New Zealand and Japan, it enhances TPP’s credentials. Japan is participating actively in the negotiation and, it is believed, constuctively in the negotiation.

More about the relationship with Japan

At the political level strong political ties are underpinned by a commonality of views and shared interests in the stability, growth and development of the Asia/Pacific community. New Zealand contributes to broader Japanese interests through its participation in regional security dialogues and as part of the group of nations which are committed to promoting democracy, human rights, peace-building and sustainable development.


Prime Minister John Key visited Japan in September 2012 and met with then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The Prime Minister has also met current Prime Minister Abe at the APEC meeting in Bali. The Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida visited New Zealand in June 2013 and signed a Joint Statement on a Strategic Cooperative Partnership between Japan and New Zealand.

Refer here to view this statement.

NZIBF interest in Japan 

NZIBF has identified strengthening the relationship with Japan to as its first priority in its strategy for enhancing New Zealand’s international business engagement. This is because of the potential of the Japanese economy, importance of Japan already as an established trade, investment and tourism partner for New Zealand, new opportunities that exist and the risks posed by Australia’s FTA negotiation. Japanese interest in developing longterm business relationships provides a basis on which to re-invigorate and expand the political and commercial ties between the two countries.

NZIBF’s Japan project is focused on two levels:

  • developing the high level constituency for New Zealand in Japan
  • improving perceptions in New Zealand of the value of the NZ-Japan relationship.

Four Partnership Forum events have been held by NZIBF in Japan in May 2008, October 2009, July 2011 and September 2013.