Australia’s two-way trade with the world was up 11% to $763 billion in 2017

23 Jul 2018


  • Edmund Tang

The value of Australia's exports of goods and services surged by almost 15% year-on-year to $387 billion in 2017, while imports grew by 7% to $377 billion over the same period.

After growing by 0.6% in 2016, Australia's two-way trade (exports and imports of goods and services) with the world increased strongly by 11% year on year to $763 billion in 2017. Trade in 2017 was around 42% of Australia's nominal GDP, up from 32% in 1990. Trade growth was underpinned by strong demand in the markets of Greater China (China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) and other Asian economies (including the ASEAN region, Japan, South Korea and India) for our goods and services, which saw two-way trade rise by 15% and 21% to $217 billion and $286 billion respectively in 2017. Also boosting total trade growth last year was our two-way trade with American markets, which rose by 5% to $88 billion.

The Asia-Pacific region (Asia and Oceanic region) accounted for 71% of Australia's two-way trade last year, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% over the past decade. The regional share was sharply up from 61% a decade ago. In dollar terms, our trade with the Asia-Pacific region has jumped by $253 billion over the past ten years. Conversely, the combined European and American share of trade declined to 26% from 33% over the same period, though the value of our two-way trade with these two regions remained strong, up $45 billion.

Twelve of Australia's fifteen largest markets are now within the Asian region with a total combined trade value of almost $500 billion.

The top five Australian two-way trading partners in 2017 (together accounting for 53% of Australia's total trade value) were:

  • China valued at $183 billion (up 16% on 2016), accounting for 24% of total trade. China remained Australia's largest two-way trading partner, export market and import source
  • Japan overtaking the US market as Australia's second largest trading partner, valued at $72 billion, up 17% on last year (9.4% of total trade)
  • The US, valued at $68 billion, up 4% on last year (9% of total trade). The US continued to be Australia's largest two-way services trading partner
  • South Korea valued at $55 billion, up 71% on last year (7.2% of total trade). The strong growth for this period can be attributed largely to the purchase of LNG platforms
  • India overtaking the UK and New Zealand as Australia's fifth largest trading partner, valued at $27 billion, up 28% on last year (3.6% of total trade).

The top five Australian exports of goods and services by commodities in 2017 (together comprising 51% of Australia's total export value) were:

  • Iron ore and concentrates valued at $63 billion (up 17% on 2016), accounting for 16.3% of total exports of goods and services
  • Coal valued at $57 billion (up 35%), accounting for 14.8% of total exports;
  • Education-related travel services valued at $30 billion (up 17%), accounting for 7.8% of total exports
  • Natural gas replacing personal travel services as the fourth largest exported goods, valued at $26 billion (up 43%), accounting for 6.6% of total exports
  • Personal travel (excluding education) services valued at $21 billion (up 0.4%), accounting for 5.5% of total exports.

The top five Australian imports of goods and services by commodities in 2017 (30% of Australia's total import value) were:

  • Personal travel services (excluding education) valued at $40 billion (up 7.7% on 2016), accounting for 10.6% of total imports
  • Passenger motor vehicles valued at $23 billion (up 6.6%), accounting for 6.1% of total imports
  • Refined petroleum valued at $19 billion (up 29%), accounting for 5.1% of total imports
  • Ships, boats and floating structures valued $19 billion, up from $959 million, accounting for 5% of total imports
  • Telecommunications equipment and parts valued at $13 billion (up 6.8%), accounting for 3.4% of total imports.


[1]  DFAT estimates total trade in goods and services on a regional basis by adding goods (merchandise) data on a recorded trade basis with services data on a Balance of Payments (BOP) basis. DFAT has been producing these estimates since the ABS ceased publishing its regional BOP publication in 1999-2000 (this publicatipn contained regional goods and services both on a consistent BOP basis)
[2]  May exclude selected confidential export commodities from June 2013 onwards and selected confidential import commodities from September 2008 onwards. Refer to the DFAT website ( for more information and a list of the commodities excluded
[3]  Balance of payments basis
[4]  Group totals include actual partner economy export totals (from 2013 onwards) and actual import totals (from Sep 2008 onwards) for selected economies only - see DFAT website.

Sources: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Mecchandise trade data is consistent with ABS catalogue 5368.0 (Mar 2018) and unpublished ABS data while services data has been sourced from the ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.003/4;Austrade