Trade Minister Todd McClay will lead the first trade delegation from New Zealand to Iran in 12 years after sanctions were lifted after the historic nuclear deal signed last year.

McClay will lead a delegation of businesses ranging from Sealord, Tait Communication and Fonterra to Flight Coffee on the first such visit in 12 years. Labour's trade spokesman David Clark will also go - McClay said he invited Clark "in the interests of promoting a bipartisan approach to trade, which is critical to New Zealand's prosperity."

It follows the break in a long standing bipartisanship on trade when Labour decided to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Iran was New Zealand's fifth largest export market in the 1980s but the nuclear sanctions saw trade shrink.

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In March Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited New Zealand as part of an Asia Pacific tour to encourage international businesses to invest and do business in Iran again.

At the time, Zarif had said the traditional exports such as dairy and meat were important but Iran was also interested in technology from New Zealand.

McClay said Zarif had said Iran presented a $1 billion opportunity for New Zealand.

New Zealand had a strong trade relationship which dated back to 1975 when New Zealand established an Embassy in Tehran.

"Iran has traditionally been a very important market for our sheep meat and butter however exports have diminished over a number of years. Since the lifting of UN sanctions there are now renewed opportunities to re-establish this trade as well as new opportunities in the education, construction, food and beverage, energy, forestry, specialised manufacturing and services sectors."

The eighteen New Zealand companies joining Mr McClay on this visit to Iran are: NIG Nutritionals, Tait Communications, Enatel Limited, Sealord, Silver Fern Farms, Westland Milk Products, Fonterra, FrameCAD, Flight Coffee, Switchfloat, University of Canterbury, University of Auckland, ANZCO, Auckland University of Technology, Pacific Helmets, Pelco NZ, NZ Bankers Association, and Pultron Composites.