Market access: International agreements and non-tariff barriers

Free trade agreements in force

International trade agreements and conventions help you to do more and better business in a range of markets. The New Zealand Government works continually to negotiate and upgrade trade agreements and help New Zealand companies overcome trade barriers.

What trade agreements do

Free trade agreements (FTAs) and other agreements improve market access and remove barriers for goods and services travelling between the signatory countries. This can include tariff cuts as well as removing barriers to trade and investment.

When you’re doing business in a signatory country, trade agreements can give you a head start over competitors from non-signatory countries, or level the playing field in markets where your competitors already have their own trade agreement advantages.

New Zealand’s free trade agreements

New Zealand is a signatory to the following trade agreements:

  • ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA)
  • New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement
  • Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (P4)
  • New Zealand and Thailand Closer Economic Partnership
  • New Zealand and Singapore Closer Economic Partnership
  • Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER)
  • New Zealand-Korea Free Trade Agreement
  • Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
  • New Zealand and Malaysia Free Trade Agreement - signed but not yet in force.

Find out more about trade agreements currently in force on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website.

Conventions, treaties and controlled exports

New Zealand has signed up to a number of conventions and treaties that affect international trade. These include conventions that protect and assist companies doing business internationally such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. 

Conventions and treaties can place requirements on your business as well as protections. For instance, if you’re exporting hazardous waste for disposal, you will need a permit from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). See the full list of conventions and treaties at New Zealand Treaties Online

Controlled exports are also called strategic goods. These include:

  • Military equipment, including weapons, explosives and ammunition
  • Substances designed for use in chemical weapons 
  • Nuclear materials
  • ‘Dual-use’ technology – this can include commercial products, components, software or intellectual property with a potential military use.

You must have permits or consents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to export strategic goods.

MFAT also applies ‘catch-all’ controls to exports connected to weapons of mass destruction, or destined for military use by countries under UN arms embargoes. 

If you’re planning to export strategic or controlled goods, read more about the required permits and the application process on MFAT's website.

Non-tariff barriers

Trade barriers such as government policies and regulations are called non-tariff barriers. Find out how government agencies can help reduce or prevent some of these barriers

Red tape can push up costs

Non-tariff barriers are rules that make it costly or difficult to export to a particular market. You might experience these as ‘red tape, ‘roadblocks’ or ‘costs of doing business’.

The barriers can arise with any type of export from food to digital goods and services.

Examples include:

  • administrative procedures
  • quantity restrictions (such as quotas)
  • price controls
  • subsidies
  • product labelling requirements
  • private standards
  • phytosanitary or technical regulations and standards.
Help available to break the barriers 

Government agencies can help with trade barriers. We may be able to reduce, resolve or even prevent them from happening. That might be by holding government to government discussions – where officials talk through the issues with overseas agencies. Or it might be through longer-term free trade agreement negotiations.

Some barriers can be cleared up quickly, but others can take years to resolve. It depends on their nature and the willingness of the foreign partner to sort them out. Some may never be resolved for reasons beyond New Zealand’s control.

Sometimes non-tariff barriers exist for good reasons – for example, regulations to protect public health or the environment. In those cases, foreign governments may agree that New Zealand’s regulations provide equivalent protection. Or they may improve their regulations so they meet their purpose without impeding free trade.

Who to contact

If you’re a manufacturer, and you’re facing standards, regulations, rules in selling to foreign governments, or other restrictions blocking you from exporting, contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.


Education services

If you export education services and need help with non-tariff barriers, contact Education New Zealand.


Services and investment

If you encounter a non-tariff barrier that’s unfairly preventing you from exporting your services offshore, get in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) for assistance.

Phone: MFAT Exporter helpline 0800 824 605

Food and primary industries

The Ministry for Primary Industries can help primary industry exporters deal with barriers like arbitrary rules for food safety and standards, or animal welfare.

Website: MPI: Exporting

Customs help

Customs can help with advice on a range of export issues including border clearance issues, tariff classification, and rules of origin.


Take a look at the Government agencies that can help you with market access

Scope a market by identifying if free trade benefits are available