ExportNZ is calling for the Government to encourage more collaboration between export-focused, small-to-medium-sized firms.

The statement was part the Wellington-based lobby group's Exporters Manifesto, released yesterday to political parties in the leadup to next month's election.

ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard said a new generation of managers were more open to collaborative exporting than their predecessors.

"You start off with the question of how do you grow bigger companies - is there any shortcut to that?" she said. "Maybe a shortcut is companies actually leveraging off each other."


Beard said small firms often struggled to get noticed overseas.

Wine exporters, for example, could band together to have a bigger presence on retail shelves and save on shipping costs in the process, she said.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise chief executive Peter Chrisp has indicated he would like to see more firms collaborating in export markets.

"I think more and more companies are realising that to successfully go to market you have to [collaborate], but I don't think it's deep in our DNA to do it," he said in July.

Chrisp said Pure New Zealand Greenshell Mussels - a joint venture of New Zealand seafood firms exporting shellfish to China - was a good example of firms working together to gain access to a booming marketplace.

ExportNZ's manifesto made little mention of the impact the strong New Zealand dollar was having on exporters. The lobby group only called for "continued reduction in Government spending", which it said would reduce inflation and keep interest rates and the kiwi lower.

Beard said the strong dollar was a big issue for exporters.

"But I think we take the view that it's a very difficult issue for New Zealand to control," she said.

ExportNZ believed there was a lot of "poor government spending", such as interest-free student loans and Working for Families, which would be better addressed through more appropriate tax rates. But while the group wanted spending cuts in social areas, the manifesto recommended that the Government boost its research and development funding to get this country's total R&D spend closer to the OECD average, which was 2.33 per cent of gross domestic product in 2008.

Total R&D spending in New Zealand was 1.3 per cent of GDP last year, ExportNZ said.

The group also recommended that the Government investigate new policies that would help increase the access firms have to both domestic and international sources of venture capital funding.

"There are lessons to be learned from other successful exporting countries that use the tax system to incentivise investment in innovative export-focused companies," the manifesto said.

It also said competitive transport was crucial for keeping exporters' costs down.

ExportNZ also said it hoped to see free trade negotiations successfully concluded with India and Russia. It would also welcome the Government exploring FTA linkages with the European Union and Mercosur - a political and economic agreement between a number of South American nations.