New Zealand is well ahead of Australia in trade competitiveness, according to a new international report.
The Geneva-based World Economic Forum's enabling trade index for 2014 ranks New Zealand fourth out of 138 countries, up from fifth when the index was last released in 2012.
In contrast, Australia dropped nine spots to 23rd, with burdensome regulation and poor transport links among the factors seen as inhibiting trade.
Singapore topped the list, followed by Hong Kong and the Netherlands. Britain was the top G20 nation, coming in at number six, while the world's largest economy, the United States, was ranked 15th.
African nation Chad was ranked last, behind Venezuela and another African country, Angola.
The report said inefficiencies, red tape and poor infrastructure were among the key issues preventing economies from fully reaping the benefits of trade.
It assessed countries in four areas - market access, border administration, infrastructure, and the operating environment.
New Zealand performed well in most categories, getting an overall score of 5.2 out of seven.
However, it rated poorly in foreign-market access, coming in 65th at just 2.6 out of seven.
A big part of this was due to high cost or delays caused by international transportation, which the report found to be the most problematic factor for both importers and exporters.
Almost one in five respondents (18.7 per cent) picked it as the biggest problem for exporting, narrowly ahead of tariff barriers abroad (18.4 per cent).
Identifying potential markets and buyers was the biggest problem for more than one in six respondents (17.1 per cent).
Other problems included burdensome procedures at foreign borders, technical requirements and standards abroad, and corruption at foreign borders.
International transport was a much bigger concern for importers, with more than one in three (37.3 per cent) saying its associated costs and delays were the biggest problem.
Most other respondents said domestic technical requirements and standards (16.8 per cent), burdensome import procedures (16.8 per cent) and costs or delays caused by domestic transportation (16.5 per cent) were the biggest problems for importing.
Another factor lowering New Zealand's overall score was transport infrastructure, which was ranked 39th in the world with a rating of only 4.1 out of seven.
The poor quality of railway infrastructure (3.7 out of seven), the liner shipping connectivity index (62nd in the world) and the low percentage of paved roads (66.2 per cent, 55th in the world) all contributed to the low score.
On the other hand, New Zealand's air transport infrastructure scored six out of seven and was 16th-best in the world.
New Zealand topped the world ranking in several categories including the customs transparency index and the terrorism index, while also having the lowest risk of diversion of public funds or irregular payments in imports or exports.
It's worst score came in the ease of hiring foreign labour (76th), mobile phone subscriptions per 100 people (67th) and the business impact of rules on foreign direct investment (60th).
- Fairfax Media