Australia flag Australia: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Australia

Foreign Trade in Figures

Australia is very open to international trade, which represented 44% of its GDP in 2020 (World Bank, 2022). It had the 3rd freest economy in the world in 2021, placing its trade freedom as one of the highest worldwide (The Heritage Foundation, 2021). The country mainly exports iron ores slag and ash (36% of total exports), mineral fuels, oils, distillation products (14%), gold and other precious stones, metals, coins and pearls (7.6%), meat and edible meat offal (4.1%). On the other hand, its main imports include machinery (15%), Vehicles other than railway and tramway (12%), Electrical and electronic equipment (12%), Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products (8.1%) and pharmaceutical products with 4,1% of total imports (Trading Economics, 2021). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting a rebound of 5.5% in the volume of exports of goods and services of this country in 2022, after a fall of 10.1% in 2020 and 1% in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic, and an increase of 8.3% of its imports, after a fall of 13.4% in 2020 and an increase of 6.8% in 2021 (IMF Country Report No. 21/255, December 2021).

Its main partners are China, Japan, South Korea, India, The USA, Germany, and Thailand (Comtrade, 2022). Structurally, Australian foreign trade is highly dependent on the Chinese economic situation and the country's diplomatic relations with China. As a bloc, the EU is Australia's second largest trading partner. As such, Australia and the European Union launched negotiations for a free trade agreement in mid-2018, but no deal has been signed yet. The country is also negotiating trade agreements with the Gulf Cooperation Council, India, Peru, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. On the 15th of November 2020 Australia has also signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 14 other Indo-Pacific countries. This free trade agreement is the largest trade deal in history, covering 30 per cent of the global economy. It includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN : Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and ASEAN’s free trade agreement partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea). The RCEP covers goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation. It also creates new rules for electronic commerce, intellectual property, government procurement, competition, and small and medium sized enterprises.

The country's trade balance was characterised by a structural deficit until 2007, but since then the country has been alternating between periods of surplus and deficit. The latest trade data from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Investment (DFAT) confirmed that the Australian trade sector is highly resilient and performed strongly since the start of the pandemic (Source: DFAT Trade and Investment publications and articles, accessed December 2021). Australia achieved a record high surplus of over A$75 billion in 2020, in terms of the trade balance in goods and services, an increase on the previous two years with A$68 billion in 2019 and A$22 billion in 2018 (Source: DFAT Trade and Investment publications and articles, accessed July 2021). Australia’s two-way trade in goods and services reached almost A$800 billion in 2020. Most of this trade is with Asia. 12 of Australia’s 15 largest trading partners are within the Asia region. These partners accounted for A$516 billion of Australia’s two-way trade, or two-thirds of the total.

In 2020, Australia exported AUD 796,9 billion of goods and services (USD 571,8 billion), a 13.2% decrease compared to the previous year (Austrade, 2021). Seasonally adjusted, as of October 2021, Australia's trade balance was $11,220 millions of October 2021 (DFTA, 2021).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 196,150228,780235,386221,564211,109
Exports of Goods (million USD) 190,271231,131257,098271,005250,578
Imports of Services (million USD) 56,53266,61072,18670,72537,225
Exports of Services (million USD) 53,94164,04268,52470,14847,877

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 40.841.843.345.744.0
Trade Balance (million USD) -5,79510,50320,94348,01439,940
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -10,2387,20217,09446,96949,975
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -0.14.87.30.2-7.3
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 6.85.54.14.0-1.9
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 21.520.621.421.620.1
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 19.321.221.824.123.9

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -1.05.68.03.92.1
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 6.88.39.64.62.7

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Australia is a member of the following international economic organisations: OECD, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), WTO, G-20, Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), ICC, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Australia click here. International organisation membership of Australia is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
Australia is a member of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed on 15 November 2020. The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Australia can be consulted here.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
China 40.8%
Japan 12.4%
South Korea 6.5%
United States 5.3%
United Kingdom 4.2%
See More Countries 30.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
China 28.8%
United States 11.9%
Japan 6.0%
Thailand 4.8%
Germany 4.6%
See More Countries 43.9%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

245.1 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 32.7%
Coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels...Coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels manufactured from coal 12.3%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 7.2%
Meat of bovine animals, frozenMeat of bovine animals, frozen 1.6%
Copper ores and concentratesCopper ores and concentrates 1.3%
See More Products 44.9%
212.0 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 6.3%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 5.5%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 3.8%
Automatic data processing machines and units...Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 3.5%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 3.0%
See More Products 78.0%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

68.7 bn USD of services exported in 2018
65.55%
11.36%
6.63%
5.20%
3.67%
2.02%
1.41%
1.28%
1.24%
0.99%
0.65%
72.0 bn USD of services imported in 2018
51.40%
19.03%
13.33%
5.04%
2.79%
2.67%
2.11%
1.66%
1.15%
0.82%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: June 2022

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