From a global perspective, Australia shipped US$254.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 34.3% increase since 2016 but a -6.6% drop from 2019 to 2020.
Applying a continental lens, 78.2% of Australia exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 9.5% were sold to importers in Europe. Australia shipped another 6.7% worth of goods to North America with another 4.3% going to fellow Oceania nations led by New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Smaller percentages went to Africa (0.7%) then Latin America (0.5%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
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 2020. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Australian exports.
- China: US$90.6 billion (43% of total Australian exports)
- Japan: $19 billion (9%)
- United States: $13.1 billion (6.2%)
- South Korea: $13 billion (6.2%)
- United Kingdom: $10.3 billion (4.9%)
- India: $7.1 billion (3.4%)
- New Zealand: $7 billion (3.3%)
- Singapore: $5.5 billion (2.6%)
- Taiwan: $5.5 billion (2.6%)
- Hong Kong: $4.7 billion (2.2%)
- Vietnam: $4.4 billion (2.1%)
- Indonesia: $3.4 billion (1.6%)
- Malaysia: $3.3 billion (1.6%)
- Germany: $2.6 billion (1.2%)
- Thailand: $2.3 billion (1.1%)
Three-quarters (75.3%) of Australian exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Leading the year-over-year increases consuming Australian exported goods were the United States (up 31.6%), Germany (up 24.9%), Vietnam (up 4%), Singapore (up 3.7%) then China (up 1.4%).
The top annual decline was -27.9% for Malaysia.
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.
Australia incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- United States: -US$10.6 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Thailand: -$7.3 billion
- Germany: -$6.7 billion
- Italy: -$4.2 billion
- Malaysia: -$3.4 billion
- France: -$2.8 billion
- Mexico: -$1.9 billion
- Ireland: -$1.3 billion
- Spain: -$1.2 billion
- Papua New Guinea: -$1.1 billion
Among Australia’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Australian deficits with Malaysia (up 13.5%) and Ireland (up 1.1%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
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.
Overall Australia generated a $51.5 billion surplus in 2020 down by -11.7% from $58.3 billion one year earlier.
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.
Australia incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- China: US$32.6 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- South Korea: $6.9 billion
- Japan: $6.9 billion
- United Kingdom: $5.4 billion
- Hong Kong: $3.8 billion
- India: $3.4 billion
- Taiwan: $2.3 billion
- New Zealand: $2 billion
- Philippines: $725 million
- Egypt: $285.6 million
Among Australia’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Australian surpluses with South Korea (up 24.2%), New Zealand (up 19.4%) and Egypt (up 16.9%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
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. 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, Australia’s Top 10 Exports and Australia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on February 15, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 15, 2021
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Australia Import Export Directory. Accessed on February 15, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on February 15, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 15, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 15, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 15, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on February 15, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on February 15, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Australia. Accessed on February 15, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on February 15, 2021
Zepol’s Company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 15, 2021