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Terms of trade with selected trading partners

This article contains information on bilateral imports, exports, and terms of trade, by country, for merchandise (ie goods only) for some of New Zealand’s major trading partners.

The goods terms of trade index measures the changing volume of goods imports that can be funded by a fixed volume of New Zealand's goods exports.


New Zealand’s terms of trade with most of its major trading partners has generally increased over the past 15 years, with the exception of Australia, which has had a small decrease.

Figures 2 to 6 show the terms of trade and import and export goods price indexes for some major trading partners. All are for goods only. International trade in services is not included.

In the year to June 2015, 72 percent of New Zealand’s trade was in goods (28 percent was in services).


Trade with China has increased considerably in the past 15 years, particularly for exports after a free trade agreement came into effect in October 2008. Since the year to June 2000, the volume of exports to China has grown more than 500 percent, while the volume of imports from China has grown nearly 400 percent.

Figure 2



New Zealand imported $14 million of cellphones from China in the year to June 2002. The next year this more than doubled to $30 million. In the June 2015 year, it was nearly $500 million. Imports of computing equipment from China grew from nearly $60 million in the year to June 2002 to $575 million in the June 2015 year.

Recent changes in the terms of trade with China, and the export price index, were heavily influenced by the changes in dairy prices. Milk powder, butter, and cheese were 28 percent of New Zealand’s goods exports to China in the year to June 2015; for the previous June year they were more than half the total (52 percent).

Over 80 percent of our trade with China is in goods.


Australia is the only major trading partner covered in this article for which the terms of trade has fallen since 2000. This is due to the prices of items we import from Australia increasing more (up nearly 30 percent between 2000 and 2015) than the prices of items we export to Australia (up 14 percent).

Major exports to Australia include food, crude oil, gold, and wine, while our major imports include motor vehicles, aluminium oxide, and wheat.

Figure 3


Increases in oil were a large part of the increased volumes we exported to Australia for the year to June 2008.

For the year to June 2005, New Zealand imported more than 20,000 cars from Australia; for the June 2009 year it was under 9,000.


New Zealand’s major import from Japan is motor vehicles. In the year to June 2008, we imported more than 130,000 cars from Japan, but in the June 2009 year this fell to just over 81,000. In the year to June 2015 it was up to more than 150,000 vehicles.

Major exports to Japan include food (particularly cheese, fruit, and meat). 

Figure 4


United States

The peaks in import volumes from the United States (US) can indicate large-value imports of capital goods, such as large commercial aircraft. An important factor in the increased volumes of imports is more vehicles and parts being imported from the US.

Beef is a major export to the US. Recent high prices for beef in that country have helped increase the terms of trade between New Zealand and the US.

Figure 5



United Kingdom

For the year to December 2014, the United Kingdom (UK) was New Zealand’s ninth largest trading partner.

Figure 6


In the year to June 1997, the value of wine exports to the UK ($47 million) was about 10 percent of the value of sheep meat exports to the UK (about $470 million). By the year to June 2015, wine exports to the UK had grown to over $350 million, and were more than 60 percent of the value of sheep meat exports to the UK (about $550 million).


See imports, exports, and merchandise (goods only, excluding re-exports) for definitions.

The terms of trade index is calculated as:

the price index for exports divided by the price index for imports, multiplied by 1000.

For more information

Overseas  goods trade by country

Goods and Services Trade by Country: Year ended June 2015

Overseas Trade Indexes (Prices and Volumes): June 2015 quarter

New Zealand trade, investment, and migration by country – fact sheets

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