Tracking the performance of the export sector

Croaking Cassandra (Michael Reddell ) has recently written a number of interesting blogs discussing the poor performance of the export sector, and what might be done about it. This is a topic that has been ignored for years by MBIE and Treasury, so it is very interesting to see an experienced economist’s perspective.

Michael has come up against the same problem I had in writing Innovate! which is that there is no data of the technology-based export sector level of any quality that is useful. The SNZ classifications are simply useless. He resorts to the TIN 100 report, but this is a partly government funded exercise which involves interviewing firms ICT firms and presenting their information, and it contains little commentary on sector prospects or dynamics.

In Innovate! I decided to segment the export sectors into fifteen groups and to describe their current situation and prospects based on my personal knowledge of the main companies and by accessing a variety of reports and supporting documents. This is what I found:

Advanced manufacturing - good prospects, highly competitive sector, needs support

Medical technologies - good prospects, disorganised, still very small (except FPH)

Steel and Aluminium - big FX earner but very fragile

Info and Comms Technologies - struggling, poorly connected to the unis

Food - Fragmented, leaderless, challenged by new technology

Agritechnology - Fragmented, very poor export performance

Biosecurity - New opportunity to export our technology

Biotechnology - Static, poor technology base, disappointing

Forests and Timber - new engineered timber technologies are exciting but lack support

Fibres and Textiles - Lots of opportunities but ignored by MBIE

Professional Services - Static

Oil and gas - Vast reserves await discovery, but difficult sector

Minerals - Several very large opportunities are available

Geothermal technologies - Lost opportunity for NZ

The EEZ - More investigation needed

It is immediately obvious that any kind of approach to increasing technology-based exports needs to start at a near sector level. There is no single bullet here. Each sector has its own problems and opportunities, and each needs a support plan that deals to these. As one example amongst many, the advanced manufacturers need much more and easier access to the computing technologies held within the university system – manufacturing is increasingly becoming bound up in internet –based management of the service from design to maintenance.

Here are the links to Michael’s blogs, and I plan to comment on them in due course.