In 2015, Australia signed the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which opened tariff-free markets for agricultural, natural resources, energy and manufacturing products and related services. Some experts estimate that the China-Australia FTA will add more than $20 billion in bilateral trade between the two countries.
From a global perspective, Australia shipped US$189.6 billion worth of products worldwide during 2016. That figure represents roughly 1.2% of overall exports estimated at $16.236 trillion for 2015.
From a continental perspective, 76.6% of Australia’s total exports by value in 2016 were delivered to Asian trade partners. European importers purchased 8.3% of Australian shipments while 5.6% worth arrived in North America. Other trade partners in Oceania, the geographic entity to which Australia belongs, accounted for 4.6% of Australia’s exports in 2016.
Australia’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Australia’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Australian shipments by dollar value during 2016. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Australian exports.
- China: US$61.8 billion (32.6% of total Australia exports)
- Japan: $26.1 billion (13.8%)
- South Korea: $12.5 billion (6.6%)
- United States: $9 billion (4.7%)
- India: $7.6 billion (4%)
- United Kingdom: $7.5 billion (4%)
- New Zealand: $6.5 billion (3.4%)
- Taiwan: $5.3 billion (2.8%)
- Hong Kong: $5.2 billion (2.7%)
- Singapore: $4.3 billion (2.2%)
- Indonesia: $4 billion (2.1%)
- Malaysia: $3.5 billion (1.9%)
- Vietnam: $2.8 billion (1.5%)
- Thailand: $2.7 billion (1.4%)
- United Arab Emirates: $2.2 billion (1.1%)
Well over fourth-fifths (84.9%) of Australian exports in 2016 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Leading export increases was Vietnam up 157.3% since 2009, followed by Hong Kong (up 129.4%), China (up 85.2%), Malaysia (up 42.8%) and the United Arab Emirates (up 31.8%).
Leading the decliners was India cutting back its Australian imports in value by -32.8%.
Similarly, Aussie exports to Thailand dropped by -18.6% followed by Japan’s -12.9% reduction.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
In 2016, Australia incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- United States: -US$12.7 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2016)
- Germany: -$8.4 billion
- Thailand: -$8.1 billion
- Italy: -$3.9 billion
- Malaysia: -$3.4 billion
- France: -$2.5 billion
- Ireland: -$1.9 billion
- Switzerland: -$1.6 billion
- Mexico: -$1.5 billion
- Sweden: -$1.4 billion
Among Australia’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Australian deficits with Mexico (up 335.8%), Thailand (up 36.3%) and Italy (up 22%) grew at the fastest pace from 2009 to 2016.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Australia’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Australia to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
In 2016, Australia incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- China: US$17.7 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2016)
- Japan: $11.5 billion
- Hong Kong: $4.5 billion
- South Korea: $4.5 billion
- India: $4.4 billion
- United Kingdom: $2.2 billion
- Taiwan: $2 billion
- New Zealand: $883.4 million
- Saudi Arabia: $869.7 million
- Philippines: $862.7 million
Among Australia’s trading partners that cause the greatest positive trade balances, Australian surpluses with China (up 322.9%), Hong Kong (up 251.8%) and Philippines (up 60.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2009 to 2016.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Australia’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Australia to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Australian Trading Partners
Thirty-six Australian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 for 2015. Below is a selected sample of the major Aussie companies that Forbes included:
- BHP Billiton (diversified metals)
- Fortescue Metals Group (iron, steel)
- Woodside Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Amcor (containers, packaging)
- Santos (oil, gas)
- Caltex Australia (oil, gas)
- Orica (diversified metals)
- Newcrest Mining (diversified metals)
According to IMPORTERS.com listings for Australian suppliers, the following are examples of companies that ship products from Australia to its trading partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis are products that the Australian business provides.
- Bullys Beef Pty Ltd (beef)
- Cotton Tree Trading Pty Ltd (dairy products)
- Harts Food And Beverages PL (coconut water)
- Logreen Pty Ltd (food additives, vanilla beans)
- Metabolic Food Company (breakfast cereal blends)
- Platinum Direct (premium wines)
- Rasile Global Importers P/L (food, beverages)
- Scorex (meat, poultry)
- Sunnyfresh Grapes Australia (grapes)
- Waverley Australia Pty Ltd (blankets, rugs, quilts)
See also Australia’s Top 10 Imports, Highest Value Australian Import Products, Australia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and Highest Value Australian Export Products
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 13, 2017
Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 13, 2017
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 12, 2016
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 13, 2017
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Australia Import Export Directory. Accessed on November 22, 2015