France and New Zealand: shared values and good business


19 April 2018

Ariane Gonzalez / Trade Commissioner, France, Belgium and the Netherlands

New Zealand’s business and trade relationship with France is strong, longstanding and has the potential to grow significantly under the New Zealand-European Union Free Trade Agreement currently in negotiation.

France and New Zealand have common values. Both countries care for people, the environment and democracy, and share a passion of food and rugby. It is a good start.

France is New Zealand’s 26th largest export market, and the fourth largest trading market in the EU. From official statistics on trade for the year ended June 2017, annual two-way trade between France and New Zealand total $1,309 million. In the financial year to June 2017, New Zealand goods exports to France were valued at $323 million, principally made of up agri-food products, medical devices, fish and wine. 

With governments in both nations led by two progressive and youthful leaders, with similar priorities, the argument for closer business collaboration is compelling: we each offer the other a great base to expand our businesses – from France into continental Europe, and from New Zealand into Asia Pacific.

These shared areas of interest are underpinned by an attractive business environment for businesses looking to internationalise. This was the case recently when the French financial newspaper Les Echos featured New Zealand startup Kitty Hawk (operating under the name Zephyr Airwork in New Zealand), which received clearance from New Zealand authorities to fly its electric, self-flying air taxis capable of travelling at up to 180km/h. The aircraft has been funded by Google founder Larry Page and developed in New Zealand.

This is a good example of what makes New Zealand attractive to the French, a land of innovation and agility, a country open to the world, growing fast while focusing on the respect of the environment and of the people.

French companies have already built a strong presence in New Zealand, in sectors as diverse as jam processing, railway, transport, engineering, construction, energy, aeronautics and wine. 

Recently, I was speaking with a group of French entrepreneurs – a mix of very large and smaller businesses – and I was impressed by an increase of interest among their CEOs in investing in the Asia-Pacific region. They have a strong interest in New Zealand, where opportunities in many areas such as infrastructure, environment, housing, energy, retail have been identified.

This bodes well for New Zealand companies currently exporting to France who want to lift their sales, and for those considering France as a new market. France is an attractive proposition: with 66.8 million inhabitants, it is the third largest economy in Europe, the second largest consumer market in Europe, and is home to a significant number of large multinational business groups.

The French are sophisticated and mature consumers, and Paris is a hub for fashion, food, finance and entrepreneurship. France is well connected to continental Europe with great infrastructure.

New Zealand and France share expertise and experience across a range of sectors – high quality food and beverage, innovative life sciences, agriculture and tech, to name just a few. 

France has a growing tech startup ecosystem, fuelled by the largest start-up incubator in the world (based in Paris), strong R&D incentives and a system of tax credits that helps reduce the cost of a researcher by almost a third. 

In more traditional sectors, the French spend more on food and beverages than any other European country… and are prepared to pay premium for high quality.

Many New Zealand companies are already exporting to France and targeting premium cross-sector consumers or connoisseurs. You can now find beautiful Wagyu Beef from New Zealand in premium French retail outlets, order your favourite flat white in a Parisian café, buy natural skincare in famous department stores, taste Ora King Salmon in famous restaurants, and even New Zealand wines are building a solid reputation. New Zealand children’s clothing and play equipment are also popular.

Other New Zealand businesses have been successful in the health IT and medical equipment sectors, and water jets are starting to become popular in the French marine industry.
My advice to New Zealand businesses is to analyse the market before setting up or starting to export to France, identify local partners, and come prepared. Current labour market reforms are making it easier for overseas businesses to set up in France, but legal advice is definitely recommended to navigate through both EU and local requirements. 

Using our common values as the bedrock and our shared future ambitions as the driving force, there is much that New Zealand and France can learn from each other. If we get that right, we both do well. 

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