Guide to entering the European market

People walking through a Spanish town square

10 October 2017

David McLeish / Regional Operations Manager NZTE / Europe

As the world’s largest economy with 500 million consumers, the European Union (EU) offers exciting opportunities.

Not only does the EU provide access to consumers who are prepared to pay premium prices, its size and level of sophistication makes it possible to sell successfully to niche groups.

Its transparent systems and single regulatory framework makes it easier to do business across multiple countries. For those looking at setting up a physical presence, the EU offers a skilled workforce, a broad network of New Zealand companies already doing business, and a generally high quality of life making it easier to attract talent. 

On the other hand, competition is aggressive in most sectors. Growth rates are slow, creating entry costs and barriers for new players. Each EU market requires a different strategy and focus. And the implications of Brexit are still to be understood. 

To help New Zealand businesses weigh up the pros and cons of the EU, NZTE has published Entering the European Market – to help you understand if the EU is the right market, how to pick the right countries within the EU, and what to be aware of. 

View and download our guide.

Avoid common mistakes


  • Don’t select a country simply because it can be seen as a hub for Europe; instead focus on the market that provides the best access to your customers.

Consider regions

  • Ideally, you should be based as close to your customers as you can. It often means selecting large cities as a base.
  • However, companies planning to set up production and create local jobs should also consider if any regional incentives or public-private-partnership schemes are available.

Know regulations

  • Regulatory requirements, especially in the pharma and food & beverage sector, privacy are far more complex than in NZ.
  • Full traceability of the products is compulsory in the EU.

Protect IP

  • IP needs to be registered at a European level, including regular renewal, and this can be quite expensive.
  • IP legislation and enforcement still differs on a country by country basis.

Obtain work permits

  • Obtaining a working permit for a New Zealander with no EU passport is quite complicated all around Europe, apart from the UK.

Plan ahead

  • Estimate costs and timeframes required to set up and operate.
  • Closing down a business is more complex and takes more time than in New Zealand, especially if it involves laying off people.