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International Merchandise Trade, Preliminary, Australia

Contains preliminary estimates of international merchandise trade, includes breakdowns of imports, exports, source and destination countries

Reference period
December 2020
Released
25/01/2021

Key statistics

•    Exports of goods in December 2020 increased $4,901m (16%) to $34,927m
•    Imports of goods in December 2020 decreased $2,521m (-9%) to $25,971m
•    For December there is a goods trade surplus of $8,956m (original, current price, merchandise trade basis)

This publication presents preliminary data on Australia's international trade in goods on an original, current price, merchandise trade basis. These data are subject to revision as more complete and accurate information becomes available. See Methodology for more details.

Exports

International trade in goods - exports summary (a)
 Oct 2019Nov 2019Dec 2019Oct 2020Nov 2020Dec 2020Nov 2020 - Dec 2020 
$m$m$m$m$m$m$m%$m YoY% YoY
Total goods31,44431,80034,06730,10230,02634,9274,901168603
Rural goods3,8823,9634,3453,1773,2414,4821,241381373
Non-Rural (b)25,53625,93527,55524,93923,90927,6473,73816920
Non-monetary gold (c )2,0261,9022,1671,9872,8762,799-77-363229

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
a. Caution should be used when interpreting preliminary estimates as they may be different to the final published estimates, and are subject to revision.
b. For all time periods, confidentialised export items are included in Non-rural goods, whether or not this reflects their true nature.
c. Includes Gold coin.

Exports key movements

Exports of goods in December 2020 increased from the revised November 2020 estimate of $30,026m by $4,901m (16%) to $34,927m.

In December 2020:

•    metalliferous ores increased $2,752m (22%)
•    cereals increased $815m (216%)
•    coal increased $762m (26%)
•    gas increased $173m (6%)

Iron ore has driven the increase in metalliferous ores, it accounted for 82% of the total value and was up $2,165m to $12,510m. The increase in iron ore has been a result of both quantity, up 11% in December on November and strong prices, which has resulted in record values in December for iron ore and consequentially metalliferous ores. 

December exports of cereals was the largest on record. The increase in cereals was driven by wheat, up $604m (423%) and barley, up $182m (254%) with 42% of December’s barley export headed for Saudi Arabia ($106m). Favourable growing conditions in Australia, coupled with less favourable conditions in other wheat growing regions such as Russia (the world’s largest wheat exporter), has driven demand for Australian wheat to record highs. 

Australia’s three largest export destinations for coal all recorded large increases in December including: Japan, up $236m (27%), India, up $272m (38%), and South Korea, up $148m (48%). 

Year-on-year

December 2020 exports are $860m (3%) higher than December 2019, driven by: 

•    metalliferous ores, up $3,603m (31%)
•    cereals, up $689m (137%)
•    non-monetary gold (excluding gold coin), up $612m (30%)

Offsetting the year-on-year increases were gas, down $1,519m (-35%) and coal, down $1,126m (-23%). 
Exports for the 2020 calendar year were 7% lower overall than 2019.

Top five export destinations

Key country movements:

•    China increased $2,312m (21%)
•    Japan increased $864m (24%)
•    United States of America increased $678m (58%)
•    India increased $339m (35%)
•    South Korea decreased $317m (-14%)

Increased exports to Japan were led by metalliferous ores up $298m (44%), predominantly iron ore, and coal up $236m (27%). The increase to coal exports were driven by thermal coal, up $130m (25%), and hard coking coal up, $108m (54%).  

The United States of America and India displaced the United Kingdom and Singapore from the top five export destinations. Non-monetary gold drove the increase to the USA, up $646m (306%) and the increase to India was driven by coal, up $272m (38%) which was predominantly hard coking coal, up $268m (62%). 

Exports to China

Driving the increase to Australia’s largest trading partner, China: 
•    metalliferous ores, up $2,094m (25%)
•    cereals, up $248m (681%)

The increase in metalliferous ores to China was driven by iron ore, up $1,951m (25%) to $9,865m, accounting for 79% of Australian iron ore exports in December. The increase is driven by a rebound in quantity from November (up 15%) and strong prices. On average, China paid 9% more per tonne in December for Australian iron ore than in November. 

Exports of wheat to China reached $250m, after nil exports since August 2020. This represented one third of the total wheat exported from Australia in December and 88% of the total cereal exports to China and is the largest monthly wheat export on record to any single destination country. 

Imports

International trade in goods - imports summary (a)
 Oct 2019Nov 2019Dec 2019Oct 2020Nov 2020Dec 2020Nov - Dec 2020 
$m$m$m$m$m$m$m%$m YoY% YoY
Total goods28,68025,94026,00825,54328,49225,971-2,521-9-37-0
Capital goods (b)7,0086,5247,1366,4118,6236,984-1,639-19-152-2
Consumption goods9,6578,5387,8649,6239,8239,384-439-41,52019
Intermediate & other goods11,54510,39810,6309,0349,5209,023-497-5-1,607-15
Non-monetary gold469480378475526580541020253

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
a. Caution should be used when interpreting preliminary estimates as they may be different to the final published estimates, and are subject to revision.
b. For all time periods, confidentialised import items are included in Capital goods, whether or not this reflects their true nature  

Imports key movements

Imports of goods in December 2020 decreased from the revised November 2020 estimate of $28,492m by $2,521m (-9%) to $25,971m.

In December 2020:
•    other transport equipment decreased $1,003m (-74%)
•    telecommunications and sound equipment decreased $511m (-23%)
•    petroleum decreased $229m (-12%)
•    miscellaneous manufactured articles decreased $227m (-13%)

Within transport equipment, aeroplanes and other aircraft drove this decrease, down $1,042m (-99%) following the import of a number of aircraft from the USA in November.

Within telecommunications and sound equipment, mobile phones decreased $268m (-28%) following two months of high imports, aligned with the release of new mobile phone models. 

The decrease in miscellaneous manufactured articles follows a typically seasonal pattern with declines in December following seasonal increases in October and November.

Other notable decreases include:

•    power generating machinery, down $169m (-30%)
•    medicinal & pharmaceutical products, down $154m (-15%)
•    electrical machinery, down $148m (-9%)

The decline in power generating machinery was due to a spike in turbo jet imports from the USA in November, not repeated in December. 

Decreased imports in solar arrays and cells, vacuum cleaners and static converters drove the decline in electrical machinery. 

Offsetting the decrease:

•    specialised machinery increased $132m (13%)
•    road vehicles increased $66m (2%)

Road vehicle imports increased a further 2% in December 2020, to $3,727m making it the highest value on record. This was the seventh consecutive monthly increase since the sharp decline in May 2020. Despite the record in December, imports for the 2020 calendar year are relatively weak compared to previous calendar years, a reflection of the impact that the pandemic had in early 2020. 

Year-on-year

December 2020 imports are $37m (0%) lower than December 2019, notable year-on-year movements include:

•    petroleum, down $2,208m (-58%)
•    transport equipment, down $777m (-68%)
•    road vehicles, up $860m (30%)
•    miscellaneous manufactured articles, up $344m (29%)

Imports for the 2020 calendar year are 5% lower overall than 2019.

Top five source countries

Key country movements:

•    China decreased $641m (-7%)
•    the United States of America decreased $1,274m (-33%)
•    Germany decreased $127m (-10%) 
•    Japan increased $95m (6%)
•    Thailand increased $101m (8%)

China’s decrease was driven by a $380m (-24%) decrease in telecommunications and sound equipment, predominantly mobile phones. This follows two strong months for mobile phone imports aligning with newly released models. Miscellaneous manufactured articles also decreased, down $153m (-17%) in line with its seasonal pattern 

The decrease in imports from the United States of America was driven by transport equipment, down $1,032m (-93%). This was driven by aeroplanes and other aircraft, down $1,025m (-99%) following the import of aircraft from the USA in November.

The decrease in imports from Germany was due predominantly to road vehicles, down $36m (-15%) and medicinal and pharmaceutical products, down $29m (-16%).

Imports of road vehicles continues to drive country movements with Japan and Thailand up $94m (9%) and $47m (7%), respectively. 

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Data downloads

Table 1. Preliminary merchandise exports, standard international trade classification (1 and 2 digit), FOB value

Table 2. Preliminary merchandise imports, standard international trade classification (1 and 2 digit), customs value

Table 3. Preliminary merchandise exports, country and country groups, FOB value

Table 4. Preliminary merchandise imports, country and country groups, customs value

Table 5. Preliminary merchandise exports, state and Australia, FOB value

Table 6. Preliminary merchandise imports, state and Australia, customs value

All time series

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5368.0.55.024