Australia's trade in goods with China in 2020

Released
3/09/2020

The data presented below is on a merchandise (goods) trade, current price, original basis.

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner for both the export and import of goods. Figures 1 and 2 below shows the dominance of China, with 39% all goods exported in 2019-20 going to China, while 27% of all goods imported were from China.

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  1. Exports data subject to 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' confidentiality restrictions are excluded from individual country totals and included in 'All other countries'.
     
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  1. Imports data subject to 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' confidentiality restrictions are excluded from individual country totals and included in 'All other countries'.
     

Recent years have seen significant growth in trade between Australia and China. Figure 3 shows the value of goods exported doubling in the five years to 2019-20 from $75b in 2014-15 to $150b in 2019-20; and imports growing significantly also, up 42% over the same period.

These increases follow the signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) which came in to force in December 2015.

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  1. Data subject to 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' confidentiality restrictions are excluded from the China totals.
     

​​​​​​​Exports of goods to China

The overall value and growth in goods exported to China in recent years has been driven by exports of resource commodities, in particular metalliferous ores (mostly iron ore), and coal. In 2019-20, exports of iron ore accounted for 56% of all Australian goods exported to China and was a significant driver of the increase in exports between 2014-15 and 2019-20.

Since the commencement of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) there has been significant increases in exports of other products including: meat (in particular beef); medicinal and pharmaceutical products; and beverages (in particular red wine).

January 2020 to July 2020

Australian exports of goods to China at the beginning of 2020 were subdued, down 17% and 12% in January and February 2020 respectively, with declines in exports of iron ore (lumps and fines) in line with supply disruptions caused by Cyclone Damien.

From March 2020, exports to China rebounded to $12.7b, up 32% on February, predominantly driven by exports of iron ore. Exports to China remained strong across the April, May and June months, with record high iron ore exports to China in June 2020, which added to the second highest export of goods to China on record.

Off the back of the June 2020 high, July 2020 exports declined, down 17%, with declines in exports of metalliferous ores (largely iron ore) and coal. Year-on-year, exports to China in July 2020 were down 16%.

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  1. Data subject to 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' confidentiality restrictions are excluded from aggregates in this graph.
     

​​​​​​​Imports of goods from China

Australia’s main imports from China include:

  • telecommunication and sound equipment (including mobile phones);
  • office and ADP machinery (including laptop computers); and
  • electrical machinery and appliance (including washing machines and dryers).
     

Combined, these three products accounted for a third of the value of all of Australia’s imports from China in 2019-20.

January 2020 to July 2020

COVID-19 containment measures implemented in China in January and February 2020 significantly disrupted Chinese manufacturing and supply logistics. Imports from China in February 2020 were down 41% when compared to January 2020 driven by decreases in the major import categories. Year-on-year, imports from China in February 2020 were down 26%.

Imports from China in both March and April 2020 increased as Chinese exports resumed to pre-COVID levels. Large increases were observed in telecommunications equipment, and office and ADP machines, with demand in Australia increasing for a range of home office equipment to support home based work and schooling. Imports of personal protective equipment also increased substantially in April 2020.

After rebounding in March and April 2020, total imports from China have remained relatively stable across May, June and July 2020.

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  1. Data subject to 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' confidentiality restrictions are excluded from aggregates in this graph.