Getting inside the thinking of Australia’s exporters

Australia’s International Business Survey 2019 provides new insights into what Australia’s exporters are thinking, which markets are appealing, and signals trade tensions are beginning to dent confidence.

The survey is run by the Export Council of Australia, and sponsored by Austrade and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Behind the scenes, it’s been great to work with a peak body and a bank – Austrade is better positioned than most government agencies to collaborate with the private sector and in this case it worked really well. The Export Council of Australia ran the survey and wrote up the full survey report, while Austrade and CBA pooled their economic analysts to sift through the results and combine the most interesting parts into a highlights report. We all pulled together to organise the launch event, on 29 October 2019.

We surveyed around 600 businesses this year. Australia’s International Business Survey isn’t of the scale of a national survey, but its insights are no less valuable. Understanding how current and potential Austrade clients view the trade landscape helps us better support Australian businesses. And the richness in the survey questions allows us to really understand what businesses are thinking.

It was great to see businesses are still intending to push into new markets, and that businesses whose top international markets include the U.S. have the most positive outlook. Around 66 per cent of businesses focused on the U.S. expect a better financial outlook over the next two years, and only 4 per cent expect a worse outlook.

Businesses whose top international markets include China are less optimistic than last year. Just half of those firms expect a better financial outlook, compared to two-thirds last year. But of all destinations where businesses plan to expand, China is the most popular country, at 20 per cent of all responses. This makes sense given our strong trading ties with China, and its extremely positive economic growth rates.

The survey shows 55 per cent of businesses view their financial outlook for the next two years as being better than the previous two years. This result surprised us - particularly given the trade tensions and slowing economic growth, so we decided to dig deeper. It turns out there was an 11 percentage points fall from last year, when 66 per cent of surveyed businesses were expecting a better outlook. In context this made a lot more sense, and was a good reminder that time series data is always worth looking at.

It’s great to take the pulse of Australian exporters and this data is a rich set of research to better understand how they are thinking. We plan to dig even further into the analysis in coming weeks, so stay turned for more blog posts on this topic.