A call for government to crackdown on the hidden costs faced by exporters has the backing of a leading Wairarapa businessman.

Juken New Zealand's general manager of forests Dave Hilliard this week told the Times-Age he supports a move by the Wood Council to seek the reduction of non-tariff barriers, and government should take the debate to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if necessary.

Non-tariff barriers include regulations such as technical registrations and standards, price control measures, forest management certification and product labelling, which tend to protect domestically produced items from the full weight of foreign competition.

In a statement released earlier this week, the Wood Council said many free trade agreements had had little benefit for the forestry industry, which often still faces tariffs on processed or value-added wood products.


The council was particularly concerned by the adoption of building codes and standards that did not consider New Zealand radiata pine.

China also applies a 17 per cent import value-added tax on sawn wood, but in some parts of China there was no tax on logs, the council said.

Mr Hilliard said while it was difficult to measure how non-tariff barriers affected Juken New Zealand's business, reducing them would definitely bring benefits.

"Non-trade barriers are a difficult thing to deal with and it's often hard to identify and quantify them."

"Any impediments to free trade when you have a free trade agreement is negative for us -- it's simply other countries manipulating the system for advantage."

Speaking at the ForestWood conference in Auckland last week, Wood Council chairman Brian Stanley said while Government had been focusing on reducing tariffs, there had been a steady growth in non-tariff barriers.

"When you look at all these interventions it becomes clear, from the point of view of our industry, that we don't really have a free trade agreement with China. Yes, the duty rates on our exports of raw logs are low, because that meets China's need for raw materials.

"But what about New Zealand's needs? We need to add value to logs by manufacturing high-value wood and paper products at home. Yet the free trade agreement with China does not address that need. From my standpoint it's all very one-sided."

The WTO had estimated the number of trade-restrictive measures in effect in 2015 was now around three times greater than in 2010, Mr Stanley said.

"Non-tariff barriers are only growing in number and costing New Zealand industry millions of dollars. We need the Government to pay urgent attention."

The free trade agreement with China is due to be reviewed later this year.