Australia’s Top 10 Exports

Australia's Top 10 Exports


Australia shipped US$189.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, up by 23.2% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in but down by -0.8% from 2015 to 2016.

Australia’s top 10 exports accounted for three-quarters (75.8%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Australia’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $1.189 trillion as of November 2016.

Therefore, exports accounted for about 15.9% of total Australian economic output.

Given Australia’s population of 23 million people, its total $189.6 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $8,200 for every resident in that country.

Australia’s unemployment rate was 5.8% as of December 2016.

Australia’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Australian global shipments during 2016. 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 number 1 exported product are iron ores and concentrates followed by coal, petroleum gases then gold.

  1. Ores, slag, ash: US$48.9 billion (25.8% of total exports)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $47.5 billion (25.1%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $15.8 billion (8.4%)
  4. Meat: $8.3 billion (4.4%)
  5. Cereals: $5.1 billion (2.7%)
  6. Machinery including computers: $4.9 billion (2.6%)
  7. Inorganic chemicals: $4.7 billion (2.5%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $2.9 billion (1.5%)
  9. Aluminum: $2.9 billion (1.5%)
  10. Electrical machinery, equipment: $2.7 billion (1.4%)

Australian meat was the top gainer up in value by 60.5% over the 7-year period starting in 2009. Meat subcategory winners include frozen, fresh and chilled red meat from cows, sheep and goats.

The second-fastest increase belongs to the ores, slag and ash category, up by 56.5% led by precious metal ores, iron and copper.

Third among product categories with improving international sales was optical, technical and medical apparatus (up 32.9%).

Australian electrical machinery and equipment–notably telephone sets including smartphones–moved ahead by 25.1%, closely followed by the gems and precious metals category led by coins, precious metals scrap, diamonds and gold shipments.


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 is 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$48.2 billion (Up by 56.4% since 2009)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $30 billion (Up by 22.2%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $8.2 billion (Up by 116.5%)
  4. Meat: $7.8 billion (Up by 65.7%)
  5. Cereals: $4.9 billion (Up by 16.7%)
  6. Inorganic chemicals: $3.5 billion (Up by 22.6%)
  7. Wool: $2.2 billion (Up by 62.9%)
  8. Copper: $1.6 billion (Up by 13.1%)
  9. Vegetables: $1.5 billion (Up by 328.6%)
  10. Aluminum: $1.4 billion (Down by -43.3%)

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$24 billion (Up by 57.6% since 2009)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$22.4 billion (Up by 3.7%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$17.5 billion (Up by 8.7%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: -$5.4 billion (Up by 33.6%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$4.9 billion (Up by 32.3%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: -$4.5 billion (Up by 45.4%)
  7. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$4.1 billion (Up by 54.2%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: -$3.5 billion (Up by 7.5%)
  9. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$2.9 billion (Up by 62.1%)
  10. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$2.9 billion (Up by 47.9%)

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 Import 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 10, 2016

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 10, 2016

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