The Commonwealth of Australia shipped an overall US$272.4 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 42.5% increase since 2015 and a 7.3% gain from 2018 to 2019.
Australia’s exported goods totaled $184.1 billion during the first 9 months of 2020. Assuming an annualized $245.4 billion in exports for all 2020, Australia is on track for an estimated -10% drop in value for its shipments from 2019 to 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Australian dollar depreciated by -8.1% against the US dollar since 2015 and declined by -7.5% from 2018 to 2019. Australia’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 69.7% of products exported from Australia were bought by importers in: China (32.7% of the global total), Japan (9%), South Korea (5%), United Kingdom (3.8%), United States (3.7%), India (3.3%), New Zealand (2.6%), Taiwan (2.5%), Hong Kong (2%), Singapore (1.9%), Malaysia (1.7%) and Vietnam (1.6%).
From a continental perspective, 79.9% of Australia exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 9.2% were sold to importers in Europe. Australia shipped another 5% worth of goods to North America and fellow Oceania nations led by New Zealand and Papua New Guinea (4.3%). Smaller percentages went to Africa (1%) then Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.6%).
Given Australia’s population of 25.6 million people, its total $272.4 billion in 2019 exported products translates to roughly $10,700 for every resident in the largest country in the Oceania continent.
Many people overlook the fact that Australia is a sovereign nation located in the Southern Hemisphere comprised of the Australian continental mainland plus Tasmania and many smaller islands.
Australia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Australian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Australia.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$88.9 billion (32.6% of total exports)
- Ores, slag, ash: $78.6 billion (28.9%)
- Gems, precious metals: $18 billion (6.6%)
- Meat: $11.5 billion (4.2%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $6.3 billion (2.3%)
- Machinery including computers: $4.8 billion (1.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $3.8 billion (1.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $3.5 billion (1.3%)
- Cereals: $3.5 billion (1.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $3.3 billion (1.2%)
Australia’s top 10 exports accounted for over about four-fifths (81.6%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ores, slag and ash was the fastest-grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 31.7% since 2018. In second place for improving export sales was pharmaceuticals thanks to a 27.3% gain. Australia’s shipments of meat posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 13.4% year over year.
Two product categories declined from 2018 to 2019 led by cereals (down -29.1%) notably lower global sales for wheat, barley and rice. The other category was inorganic chemicals which slowed -23.1%.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Australia’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Overall Australia generated a $58.2 billion surplus in 2019 up by 119.3% from $26.5 billion 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$78.1 billion (134.2% of total exports)
2. Mineral fuels including oil: $61.7 billion (106.1%)
3. Gems, precious metals: $11.4 billion (19.6%)
4. Meat: $10.9 billion (18.8%)
5. Inorganic chemicals: $5.6 billion (9.6%)
6. Cereals: $3.1 billion (5.3%)
7. Copper: $2.3 billion (4%)
8. Wool: $2.2 billion (3.8%)
9. Aluminum: $1.4 billion (2.4%)
10. Live animals: $1.4 billion (2.4%)
Australia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of iron ores, and also for copper, zinc, precious metals and aluminum ores and concentrates. 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.
- Machinery including computers: -US$25.8 billion (Down by -4.5% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$25.3 billion (Down by -11.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$21 billion (Down by -6.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$5 billion (Down by -9.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$4.8 billion (Down by -6.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$4.6 billion (Down by -11.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$4.3 billion (Down by -5.7%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$3.9 billion (Down by -12.1%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$3.2 billion (Up by 0.8%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$3.1 billion (Up by 0.2%)
Australia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery including computers, notably turbo-jets, machinery parts and centrifuges including centrifugal dryers.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Australia’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market, but also represent key opportunities for Australia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Australian Export Companies
Listed below are some of the larger international trade players for Australia.
- BHP Billiton (diversified metals)
- Fortescue Metals Group (iron, steel)
- Woodside Petroleum (oil, gas)
- CSL Limited (biotech)
- Amcor (containers, packaging)
- Santos (oil, gas)
- Orica (diversified metals)
- Newcrest Mining (diversified metals)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of Australian exporters.
- Australia Meat Holdings (bovine meat, offal)
- Spiral Guard Australia (plastic items, tubes/pipes/hoses, plates/sheets/film/foil)
- Maersk Logistics Australia (wine, malt beer)
- Elektromotive Australia (bicycles, motorcycles)
Searchable List of Australia’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Australia during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Australia's Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Iron ores, concentrates||$65,696,854,000||+40.6%|
|2||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$44,427,676,000||-5.5%|
|8||Copper ores, concentrates||$4,249,386,000||-5.5%|
|9||Sheep or goat meat||$3,075,443,000||+8.0%|
|11||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$2,710,135,000||+10.2%|
|12||Fresh or chilled beef||$2,699,152,000||+5.8%|
|14||Wool (uncarded, uncombed)||$2,262,611,000||-24.0%|
|16||Medication mixes in dosage||$1,922,533,000||+9.9%|
|17||Processed petroleum oils||$1,795,607,000||-21.7%|
|18||Zinc ores, concentrates||$1,758,843,000||-7.6%|
|19||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$1,698,586,000||+59.4%|
|21||Live bovine cattle||$1,247,029,000||+13.9%|
|22||Phone system devices||$1,172,396,000||+18.4%|
|23||Aluminum ores, concentrates||$1,171,210,000||+19.9%|
|24||Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)||$1,099,573,000||-38.1%|
|26||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$1,049,204,000||+18.4%|
|27||Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust||$1,024,740,000||-7.2%|
|29||Vermiculite, perlite, other miscelleaneous minerals||$1,013,535,000||-13.7%|
|30||Precious metal ores, concentrates||$1,007,825,000||-9.2%|
|31||Other food preparations||$846,919,000||-22.5%|
|33||Iron or steel scrap||$743,667,000||-0.5%|
|35||Red meat offal||$702,270,000||+9.9%|
|36||Dried shelled vegetables||$697,159,000||-7.8%|
|37||Computers, optical readers||$687,724,000||+3.8%|
|40||Lead ores, concentrates||$673,318,000||+53.7%|
|41||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$661,504,000||-4.7%|
|43||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$626,614,000||-3.6%|
|46||Other coloring matter, luminophores||$552,088,000||-8.6%|
|47||Miscellaneous parts, accessories||$550,642,000||+4612.8%|
|51||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$530,189,000||+1.2%|
|52||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$514,288,000||+13.6%|
|53||Grapes (fresh or dried)||$436,550,000||+33.9%|
|57||Aluminum waste, scrap||$383,730,000||-14.1%|
|59||Hay, alfalfa, clover||$382,247,000||+7.6%|
|60||Fresh or dried citrus fruit||$376,423,000||+11.0%|
|62||Uncoated kraft paper||$340,889,000||-12.0%|
|63||Nickel ores, concentrates||$306,847,000||+58.4%|
|66||Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)||$295,406,000||+36.0%|
|68||Liquid pumps and elevators||$290,541,000||-3.2%|
|70||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$265,985,000||-1.0%|
|71||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$257,862,000||-7.8%|
|72||Copper waste, scrap||$252,646,000||-11.5%|
|74||Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream||$229,868,000||+7.8%|
|75||Table games, bowling equipment||$229,095,000||+7.3%|
|76||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$228,572,000||+1.7%|
|78||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$223,802,000||+13.1%|
|79||Sheep/lamb rawhides, skins||$214,275,000||-23.1%|
|80||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$208,563,000||-4.2%|
|81||Metal-containing ash, residues||$201,739,000||-0.9%|
|85||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$190,686,000||+19.9%|
|86||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$186,812,000||+9.7%|
|87||Inedible meat flour||$177,356,000||-17.1%|
|88||Bovine/equine rawhides, skins||$175,517,000||-31.0%|
|89||Computer parts, accessories||$173,580,000||-11.6%|
|90||Non-fish animal guts, bladders, stomachs||$172,482,000||-23.7%|
|91||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$171,296,000||+38.2%|
|92||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$168,165,000||+19.5%|
|93||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$168,113,000||-2.8%|
|94||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$164,371,000||-12.3%|
|99||Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$144,597,000||+5.6%|
|100||Piston engine parts||$144,111,000||+10.9%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$246.5 billion or 90.5% by value for all products exported from the Land Down Under during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, Australia’s total exported goods represent 20% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($1.365 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars) compared to 19.3% one year earlier. Albeit based on a short timeframe, those metrics seem to indicate a relatively increasing impact of international trade on Australia’s economy.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Australia’s unemployment rate was 6.9% at September 2020, up from an average 5.144% for 2019 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Australia’s capital city is Canberra.
See also Australia’s Top 10 Imports, Australia’s Top Trading Partners and Australia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
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