New Zealand’s geographic isolation and its strength in agriculture previously had the effect of limiting its interest in world affairs. However, in the past few decades, the country has moved from a predominantly agricultural economy with heavy reliance on Britain to one that is significantly more industrial and open market. This transition has boosted financial growth, and in particular broadened the nation’s technological capabilities.
New Zealand’s economy has further been helped by its strong economic ties to Australia. New Zealand’s top 6 trading partners as of 2008 included Australia, the United States, China, Japan, Singapore and Germany with Australia continuing to be New Zealand’s principal export market. The country’s primary exports include dairy products, meat, wood and wood products, fish and machinery.
But despite the overall progress, the economy fell into recession with the global financial crisis and the government is currently working on trying to raise productivity growth and develop infrastructure for recovery.
New Zealand’s overall economic development has also created a large wealth gap in its population. In recent years, the government has sought to address the longstanding injusticeｓ of its Maori minority population. The government is also focused on environmental issues including biodiversity, climate change, desertification, hazardous wastes and marine dumping through involvement in such initiatives as the Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty and Kyoto Protocol
New Zealand’s economic involvement with Asia has been increasingly important for its expanding trade. New Zealand is a “dialogue partner” with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and an active participant in APEC. In 2008 New Zealand was the first developed country to sign a free trade agreement with China.
Nearly 85 per cent of New Zealand’s population lives in urban areas, where the service and manufacturing industries are growing rapidly. New Zealanders refer to themselves as ‘Kiwis,’ after their national native bird.