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Non-tariff barriers

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

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)
  • licensing requirements
  • data storage requirements
  • privacy requirements
  • board director requirements
  • procurement rules
  • price controls
  • subsidies
  • product labelling requirements
  • phytosanitary or technical regulations and standards.

Detailed information related to Barriers to trade: Non-tariff barriers

Help available to break the barriers

Customs and other 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

Customs help

Contact us for help with advice on a range of export issues including border clearance issues, tariff classification, and rules of origin.


If you’re a manufacturer, and you’re facing standards, regulatory restrictions on your exports such as standards regulatory restrictions on your expoorts such as standards, rules in selling to foreign governments, or other restrictions blocking you from export, contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Education services

If you export education services,  including teaching international students in New Zealand or overseas and face trade barriers such as licensing requirements, investment and foreign ownership restrictions or qualifications recognition contact, Education New Zealand for help.

Services and investment

If you are a service provider or investor and encounter barriers such as foreign equity caps, data storage requirements or procurement rules that are unfairly preventing you from exporting your services offshore, get in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) for assistance.

Food and primary industries

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

Trade barriers clearinghouse

For additional information on barriers to trade; for trade barriers not covered above; or if you are unsure where to register your issue, may be able to help.  Inquiries registered will be directed to the agency best able to assist.