As a nation one of our most enduring myths is that we live in a small trade-dependent nation – geographically distant.
For all its use as a way to describe everything from our devotion to free trade deals to our self-congratulatory ability to ‘punch above our weight’ to our ‘little battler makes it on to the United Nations Security Council’ it seems only one of those – the end of the earth thing – is really true.
At least that was the point made by German Institute of Global and Area studies director Patrick Koellner in his presentation at Otago University’s Foreign Policy School.
He argued that looking at New Zealand from an outsider and European perspective the ‘small – trade-dependent nation’ was arguably a self-defining myth.
So – small? No. New Zealand’s 270,500 square kilometres ranks it 75th out of 234 countries and territories. That’s bigger than Britain – Uganda – Romania or Laos. The median countries – Serbia and Panama – are only 75,000 square kilometres. Within the United Nations’ 193 members New Zealand is in the top half.
In terms of coastline we are a relative gorilla – ninth or tenth just behind the United States but ahead of China. And our exclusive economic zone is about the sixth biggest – if you factor in Niue – Tokelau and the Cook Islands.
Even in terms of population our 4.6 million souls rank us 124th – around the median spot.
When it comes to the OECD’s measure of ‘trade intensity’ – exports and imports as a proportion of GDP – we are also not that extraordinary.