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Josh Tan reviews recent issues impacting New Zealand’s export sector and is optimistic about its performance in 2023.

Opportunities for exporters to get together have been scarce of late. But 2022 saw the triumphant return of New Zealand’s largest exporter conference, ExportNZ’s Go Global, after a two-year absence.

Exporters from around the country gathered to discuss everything that has changed in the years between events, as well as what parts of the exporting business have largely remained the same. Also on the conference agenda was the difficult task of trying to predict what the future has in store, in an effort to help exporters tackle any issue with poise.

That’s because if the Government’s forecast is to be believed, there are still stormy seas to navigate.

During the event, New Zealand’s chief trade negotiator Vangelis Vitalis gave a no-holds-barred overview of the global trade environment. In doing so he labelled 2023 “the end of the golden weather” for international trade policy.

His reasons for doing so sound somewhat biblical at first; war, famine and plague.

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated supply chain issues and threatened the world’s grain supply (of which Ukraine is a major supplier) as well as leading a surge in power prices across Europe. These increased energy costs are inevitably hitting the pockets of businesses and consumers.

Not to mention the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has turned just about every industry on its head, at least for a while.

And at the risk of sounding apocalyptic, I would add climate management to the list.

“Despite switching gears to tackle Covid’s impact in recent years, the international challenges we faced before haven’t gone away, but rather have been compounded.’

While lifting many sudden barriers to trade has granted our industry a bit of a reprieve (like reopening borders around the world), it’s clear we’re not out of the woods just yet. That’s because despite switching gears to tackle Covid’s impact in recent years, the international challenges we faced before haven’t gone away, but rather have been compounded.

Sounds like the end of the golden weather indeed, and a truly difficult environment to navigate over the coming years. But it’s not all doom and gloom ahead for the industry. Each of these issues alone have the potential to undermine any global attempts at recovery in a post-Covid environment. Together they are formidable, but not insurmountable.


Analysing confidence

The Export Barometer is an annual joint initiative between DHL and ExportNZ aimed at analysing export confidence in New Zealand and identifying export trends.

The survey checked in with Kiwi exporters to understand their outlook for 2023 and uncover the issues still keeping them up at night.

The latest report shows exporters predict this year will be a strong year for growth, with more than two-thirds of those surveyed (67 percent) saying they expect international orders to increase in 2023. To ensure this happens, it’s critical New Zealand does what it can to get its own house in order, and irons out the issues we have some control over. Things like pulling the levers at our disposal to bring inflation under control, making sure our end of the supply chain runs smoothly, and that exporters are able to recruit and train the staff they need.

ExportNZ will continue to use the insights gained from both the survey and Go Global event to advocate on behalf of businesses within the sector.

Go Global left attendees with a clearer picture of what’s on the horizon as well as many inspirational stories from fellow exporters, such as Ethique, MetalBird, Valocity, Seequent and others. These are Kiwi businesses that have managed to make their mark throughout a challenging time – be it through building sustainable brands, disrupting the digital space, or meaningful investment through partnering globally.

So, despite the risks and challenges to our industry, both anticipated and unknown, I still believe there is plenty for exporters to be optimistic about as we tackle the big issues in 2023.


Josh Tan (pictured above) oversees policy and advocacy for ExportNZ. He was previously senior policy and international relations advisor for the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central, as well as executive secretary for the New Zealand Taiwan Business Council.

This article was also published in the February 2023 issue of NZBusiness.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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