Trade, diaspora and migration to New Zealand

David Law, Murat Genc, John Bryant
JEL codes: 
NZIER working paper 2009/4

NZIER has always had a strong interest in understanding the way in which the New Zealand economy interacts with the rest of the world. We have a long history of producing research into trade liberalisation and globalisation. As the global economy becomes ever more complex, we are now turning our attention to issues such as services, investment, technology transfer and the role of people movement in promoting economic growth and productivity.

NZIER is delighted to continue this tradition by funding this important and innovative piece of research by David Law, Murat Gen and John Bryant into the links between trade flows and the movement of people across borders. This research was funded by NZIER in celebration of our 50th
Anniversary in 2008.

During this very challenging period for the global economy, there has been a tendency for policy makers to implement inwards-focused policies aimed to protecting domestic jobs and promoting domestic economic activity. Such policies are politically popular, but can be economically inefficient
and often come at the expense of deeper economic integration between countries.

One particularly topical area of policy discussion is the role of immigration in promoting economic growth. New Zealand has long been reliant on immigration to boost its population and to fill gaps in the labour market. And many Kiwis love to travel overseas to gain life and work experience. Given these continual inflows and outflows, it is interesting to consider how people movements might affect the New Zealands exports and imports of goods and services, and thus how immigration policy might be used as a policy lever to boost our international linkages.

The paper uses empirical techniques to investigate the links between trade, migration and New Zealands diaspora. It clearly shows that inwards and outwards migration has a positive effect on goods and tourism trade. This suggests that policy makers could design immigration policy with these
links in mind in order to maximise the economic potential of migrants. If trade follows migration flows, then an important avenue for boosting New Zealands integration with the global economy may be encouraging migrants from important trading partners.