Australia’s Top 10 Exports

Australia's Top 10 Exports


Australia shipped US$229.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017, down by -8.9% since 2013 but up by 21.2% from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Australia’s exported goods plus services represent 20.5% of total Australian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

Given Australia’s population of 23.2 million people, its total $229.7 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $9,900 for every resident in that country.

Australia’s unemployment rate was 5.5% as of December 2017, down from 5.8% from one year earlier.

Australia’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Australian global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Australia.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Australia’s most valuable exported products are iron ores and concentrates followed by coal, petroleum gases then gold.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$66.9 billion (29.1% of total exports)
  2. Ores, slag, ash: $60.2 billion (26.2%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $15.4 billion (6.7%)
  4. Meat: $9.1 billion (4%)
  5. Cereals: $6.6 billion (2.9%)
  6. Inorganic chemicals: $6.1 billion (2.7%)
  7. Machinery including computers: $4.7 billion (2%)
  8. Aluminum: $3.1 billion (1.4%)
  9. Electrical machinery, equipment: $3.1 billion (1.4%)
  10. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $3.1 billion (1.3%)

Australia’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-quarters (77.6%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Australian mineral fuels including oil was the top gainer up in value by 37.9% from 2016 to 2017 led by coal, petroleum gas and crude oil.

The second-fastest increase belongs to inorganic chemicals via a 33.8% gain.

The third-strongest improvement was for cereals up 28.7% led by increased Australian shipments of wheat, barley and rice.

One product category declined in international sales, namely Australian machinery including computers with its -4% drop.


Overall Australia generated an $8.4 billion surplus in 2017 up by 3,644% from $223.9 million one year earlier.

The following types of Australian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Ores, slag, ash: US$59.3 billion (Up by 22.1% since 2016)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $44.1 billion (Up by 42.3%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $8.7 billion (Up by 16.7%)
  4. Meat: $8.6 billion (Up by 11.2%)
  5. Cereals: $6.4 billion (Up by 29.4%)
  6. Inorganic chemicals: $4.5 billion (Up by 31.1%)
  7. Wool: $2.8 billion (Up by 27.8%)
  8. Vegetables: $2.2 billion (Up by 56.2%)
  9. Copper: $1.8 billion (Up by 7.1%)
  10. Oil seeds: $1.6 billion (Up by 24.7%)

Australia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of iron ores in particular, but also for copper, aluminum, zinc, manganese, nickel, lead and tin. In turn, these cashflows indicate Australia’s strong competitive advantages under the ores, slag and ash product category.


Below are exports from Australia that are negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Australia’s goods trail Australian importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Vehicles: -US$27.6 billion (Up by 15.5% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$24.2 billion (Up by 7.9%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$19.7 billion (Up by 12.5%)
  4. Ships, boats: -$6.7 billion (Up by 1,166%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: -$5.3 billion (Down by -1.4%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: -$4.9 billion (Up by 8.1%)
  7. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$4.7 billion (Down by -4%)
  8. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$4.2 billion (Up by 2.1%)
  9. Articles of iron or steel: -$3.5 billion (Up by 0.6%)
  10. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$3 billion (Up by 3.9%)

Australia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for vehicles especially cars, trucks and automotive parts or accessories.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Australia’s competitive disadvantages in the international vehicles market, but also represent key opportunities for Australia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.


Australian Export Companies

Here are some of the larger international trade players for Australia:

  • BHP Billiton (diversified metals)
  • Fortescue Metals Group (iron, steel)
  • Woodside Petroleum (oil, gas)
  • CSL Limited (biotech)
  • Amcor (containers, packaging)
  • Santos (oil, gas)
  • Orica (diversified metals)
  • Newcrest Mining (diversified metals)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of Australian exporters:

  • Australia Meat Holdings (bovine meat, offal)
  • Spiral Guard Australia (plastic items, tubes/pipes/hoses, plates/sheets/film/foil)
  • Maersk Logistics Australia (wine, malt beer)
  • Elektromotive Australia (bicycles, motorcycles)

Australia’s capital city is Canberra.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Australia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Australia’s Top 10 Imports, Australia’s Top Trading Partners and Highest Value Australian Export Products

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 7, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 7, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 13, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 13, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Australia. Accessed on February 13, 2017

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on August 24, 2015