By Kate Madley

Wales face the mighty All Blacks this weekend in front of a sold-out crowd of 74,500 fans at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium under huge pressure after losing to visitors Argentina and Samoa in the first two autumn test matches.

The rivalry between the northern and southern hemisphere teams is intense, but historically and economically the two countries are, of course, very close.

In 2011, Welsh exports to New Zealand were valued at £20 million, while British exports as a whole stood at £507 million in the 12 month to the end of January 2012.

With a population of less than 4 million, approximately 80% of New Zealanders claim some British ancestry and an estimated 17% are entitled to a British passport.

A modern and developed economy with similar legal and financial systems to those in Britain, New Zealand is no longer as closely tied to the UK market as it was.

The New Zealand government has Free Trade Agreements with Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the Republic of China, and is developing its trade with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, India and Korea. The New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2008 and was the first such agreement that China had signed with a developed country.

New Zealand is seen as a relatively straightforward economy to conduct business with and an ideal market for new exporters or those whose manufacturing capacity suits a smaller marketplace. In 2011, the country was identified as the least corrupt country to do business with by the Corruptions Perception Index.

Main exports are milk powder, butter, cheese, meat and edible offal. Other primary exports include crude oil and wood. It is no surprise that the most celebrated New Zealand export is the nation’s world number one rugby team.

There are strong similarities between the Welsh and New Zealand countryside and rugged coastline – and both countries have a global reputation as producers of top quality lamb.

In 2011, New Zealand exported £750 million of lamb and mutton, while Wales exported £133 million of lamb, up £21 million from 2010.

The Welsh Society of Wellington celebrates cultural connections between Wales and New Zealand which is supported by the New Zealand School of Business and Government, and hosts an annual St David’s day celebration.

Exports account for 24% of New Zealand’s output, which leaves it vulnerable to global economic slowdowns. Following the recession in 2008, the economy has been experiencing gradual recovery with GDP forecast to grow more than 3%.  Agriculture was the largest contributor to economic growth in the June 2012 quarter, seeing a 4.7% increase.

As of August 2012, the UK was one of the country’s top ten importers but trade was not as buoyant when compared with the volume of imports from  Australia, China, the US, Japan or Germany.

The Canterbury earthquake in February 2011 caused an estimated NZ$20 billion of damage, and the rebuild has been identified as a major driver for economic growth over the next five to ten years.

Opportunities exist for businesses to offer expertise in rebuilding infrastructure – just one of many sectors Welsh firms could explore if looking to strengthen their presence in New Zealand.