Australia - A solid trade performance

16 Mar 2020


  • Edmund Tang

Against the backdrop of a challenging global economic environment, Australia’s trade recorded strong growth in the financial year (FY) 2018–19 according to the latest data release by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

DFAT’s Composition of Trade Australia 2019 provides a comprehensive analysis of Australia’s export and import performance as well as in-depth data on Australia’s major trading partners.

Following solid growth of about 9 per cent in FY2017–18, the value of Australia’s two-way trade (exports and imports of goods and services) surged by 12 per cent to almost A$892 billion in FY2018–19 ( see table below).

In terms of trade balance, Australia experienced a record high surplus of A$48.8 billion in FY2018–19, sharply up from the previous two years: A$7.7 billion in FY2017–18 and A$10.9 billion in FY2016–17.

The nominal value of Australia’s total exports grew by 17 per cent to A$470 billion in FY2018–19. This was driven by increases in non-rural goods (23%), rural goods (1.5%) and services (10%). [1]

Annual growth of Australia’s export volumes remained solid with a 4 per cent rise in FY2018–19. The volume of goods increased by approximately 3 per cent and services by 8 per cent. [2]

Top exports: minerals, services & energy

Australia’s top 10 exports ranked by value in FY2018–19 were: iron ore; coal; natural gas; education-related services; personal travel services (excluding education); gold; aluminium; beef; crude petroleum; and copper ore. [3]

After expanding by 9 per cent in FY2017–18, the nominal value of Australia’s total imports increased by 7 per cent to A$421 billion in FY2018–19. Rises occurred in intermediate and other goods (about 10 per cent), services (9 per cent), capital goods (6 per cent) and consumption goods (2 per cent).

Annual growth of Australia’s import volumes was virtually unchanged, up only 0.2 per cent in FY2018–19. The volume of goods declined by 0.4 per cent in FY2018–19, while services was up 2 per cent. [4]

China, Japan & the US

China remained Australia’s largest two-way goods and services trading partner in FY2018–19, accounting for around 26 per cent (A$235 billion) of total trade. China was Australia’s largest export destination (valued at A$153 billion or 33 per cent of Australia’s total exports) as well as import source (valued at A$82 billion or 19 per cent of Australia’s import bill).

Japan was Australia’s second largest trading partner, accounting for around 10 per cent (A$89 billion), followed by the United States, with 8.6 per cent (A$76 billion). Rounding off Australia’s top 10 trading partners in 2018–19 were South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, India, Malaysia and Thailand.

Twelve of our 15 largest markets are in Asia and Oceania, generating a trade value of around A$577 billion in 2018–19. Trade in services has grown at 6.3 per cent per year for the past two decades. Although this services growth springs from a much smaller base (in terms of value), it is now helping to broaden our export mix beyond resources and agriculture.

Regionally, Australia’s trade with Asia accounted for 66 per cent of Australia’s total trade, followed by Europe, America, and Oceania (dominated by New Zealand).


For further economic commentary and analysis of the major trends and events that shape Australia’s trade and investment performance, visit Economics at Austrade .

[1] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Composition of Trade 2018-19, Table 2, page 13

[2] Ibid , Table 1, page 12

[3] Ibid, Table, page 15

[4] Ibid, Tabl1 1, page 12