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Foreign Trade

Under older Australian tariff policies, protection was afforded to those Australian industries considered essential, and preferential treatment was granted to imports from certain British Commonwealth countries. After World War II the foreign trade of Australia became primarily focused in Asia. Since the 1970s, economic reforms have reduced tariff protections and increased import quotas, removing many barriers to foreign competition. In the late 1990s, the value of imports regularly exceeded the value of exports. In 2004 imports were valued at $105.5 billion, exports at $97.1 billion.

The leading purchasers of Australia’s exports are Japan, the United States, South Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong. These trading partners as well as Germany and Indonesia are also the major suppliers of imports. Principal exports include metal ores, coal, gold, nonferrous metals, meat and meat products, textile fibers (mainly wool), petroleum and petroleum products, and cereals. Leading imports are machinery and transportation equipment (including road vehicles), which together constituted 47 percent of total imports in 1999, as well as office equipment, petroleum and petroleum products, and textiles. Australia is also an important exporter of agricultural and medical research services, especially to the wider Asian and Pacific region. Australia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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