Many an adventurous New Zealand company has been trying to break ground in South Korean cities like Seoul, Tongyeong and Busan.
Of course, the numbers in South Korea are attractive. It is a country of some 50 million. The Republic of Korea is New Zealand's eighth-largest trading partner, with two-way goods and services trade worth $4.9b in the year to June. New Zealand exported goods to South Korea were valued $1.8b in 2019, with wood, meat dairy and edible offal counted the top traded items.
New Zealand is in trade deficit with the Asian nation, with imports from South Korea totalling $2.4b – with the bulk of imports coming from mineral fuels and oils, vehicles (Hyundai, Kia, Daewoo and SsangYong among the Korean car-makers) and machinery.
A free trade agreement with South Korea was signed in 2015. The key win in the deal was the lifting of tariffs on an estimated 98 per cent of exports, particularly agricultural. Analysis of the deal at the time expected tariffs would be lifted on some $793m of exported goods.
For kiwifruit exports, New Zealand's main horticultural crop sent to Seoul and beyond, the tariff drop was expected to save $20m annually. Zespri chief grower and alliances officer Dave Courtney says Korea is now the fruit exporter's fifth largest market by value, with sales of $167m in the 2019 financial year, up from around $100m in 2015.
"The gradual reduction we've seen in tariffs in Korea in recent years, from around $22 million paid in 2014 to be completely removed this season, have delivered benefits to consumers, growers, and both the New Zealand and Korean economies."