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International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia

Statistics about international trade in goods and services, on a balance of payments and international trade basis

Reference period
March 2021
Released
4/05/2021
Future releases
  • Next Release 3/06/2021
    International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia, April 2021
  • Next Release 1/07/2021
    International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia, May 2021
  • Next Release 5/08/2021
    International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia, June 2021
  • View all releases

Key statistics

  • The seasonally adjusted balance on goods and services surplus decreased $2,021m to $5,574m in March. 
  • Goods and services credits (exports) fell $681m (2%) to $38,274m.
  • Goods and services debits (imports) rose $1,340m (4%) to $32,700m.

Main features

Key Figures, Seasonally Adjusted
  Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Balance on goods and services9 5277 5955 574-2 021na
 Credits (Exports of goods & services)39 48638 95538 274- 681- 2
 Debits (Imports of goods & services)-29 959-31 360-32 7001 3404

na not applicable

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COVID-19

Suspension of trend estimates

The trend series attempts to measure underlying behaviour in international trade activity. In the short term, this measurement will be significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent changes to regular patterns in international trade resulting from it. If the trend estimates in this publication were to be calculated without fully accounting for this unusual event they would provide a misleading view of underlying international trade activity.

It may be some time before the underlying trend in international trade activity can be accurately estimated. The trend series has therefore been suspended from March 2019 and will be reinstated when more certainty emerges.

Seasonal adjustment and COVID-19

International Accounts uses the concurrent seasonal adjustment method, meaning that seasonal factors are re-estimated each time new data becomes available. If not appropriately accounted for, unusual events such as COVID-19 can distort estimates calculated using this method. From March 2020, seasonal factors for series that have been notably impacted by COVID-19 will be calculated using data up to and including February 2020, then projected from March 2020 onwards. This approach, known as the forward factor method, ensures that seasonal factors are not distorted by COVID-19 impacts.

The ABS has advised users that it moved to using forward factors for seasonal analysis of a number of series, including Travel Services. Current ABS (and international) practice requires at least three years of data to assess whether a change in seasonal pattern has occurred. Should COVID-19 result in a long-term change to the seasonal pattern then revisions to these series may occur in the future. The ABS will consult with users on any future methods changes to seasonal adjustment and potential revisions. The Feature Article International Travel Services time series outlines the matter in greater detail.

Changes in this issue

Review of seasonal adjustment factors

International Accounts normally uses the concurrent seasonal adjustment method, resulting in seasonal factors being re-estimated with each new data point. As communicated in March 2020, where a time series will be exposed (or anticipated to be exposed) to significant and prolonged impacts from COVID-19, fixed forward factors would be adopted. 
Further information can be found here:

https://www.abs.gov.au/articles/methods-changes-during-covid-19-period

In International Accounts seven series were moved to forward factors:
•    Transport – Passenger exports;
•    Transport – Other exports;
•    Travel exports;
•    Other services exports;
•    Transport – Passenger imports;
•    Travel imports; and 
•    Other services imports.
  
As part of International Accounts' Extraordinary Annual Seasonal Adjustment Review (EASR) process, all seasonally adjusted time series have been individually assessed to determine how each observation from the previous year should be treated for estimation of seasonal factors for seasonally adjusting the current end of the series.  This process ensures that any disruption to series caused by COVID-19 does not unduly affect estimates of the seasonal factors, and consequently seasonally adjusted revisions are relatively minor.

The outcome of the International Accounts' EASR is that the import and export series of Other services and the export series of Transport – Other will be returned to concurrent seasonal adjustment, while the series related to travel services, passenger transport services, and state services will continue to use the forward factor method.  New forward factors have been calculated and will be used from the March 2021 publication.

These changes will be implemented in the March 2021 release.

Cessation of International Merchandise Trade, Preliminary, Australia

The release of preliminary data on Australia's international trade in goods on an original, current price, merchandise trade basis,  will be discontinued with the June 2021 release, to be published on 22 July 2021. For more information, see Changes to ABS statistical work program. International merchandise trade data will continue to be available monthly in International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia.

Balance on goods and services

In seasonally adjusted terms, the balance on goods and services was a surplus of $5,574m in March 2021, a decrease of $2,021m on the surplus in February 2021.

Balance on goods and services(a), seasonally adjusted
   Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Balance on goods and services9 5277 5955 574-2 021na
 Total goods and services credits39 48638 95538 274- 681- 2
  Total goods credits34 27933 95733 377- 580- 2
  Total services credits5 2084 9984 897- 101- 2
 Total goods and services debits-29 959-31 360-32 7001 340 4
  Total goods debits-25 953-27 259-28 5781 3195
  Total services debits-4 007-4 101-4 123221

na not applicable
- Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) For sign conventions, see the Explanatory notes.

Goods and services credits (exports), seasonally adjusted

Goods credits

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(a) Trend series suspended from March 2019.

Goods credits, seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Total goods credits34 27933 95733 377- 580- 2
 General merchandise31 55231 05831 186128-
  Rural goods4 0594 1784 150- 28- 1
  Non-rural goods27 49326 88027 0361561
 Net exports of goods under merchanting(a)717171--
 Non-monetary gold(a)2 6562 8282 120- 708- 25

- Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) This component is not seasonally adjusted.

Rural goods

Rural goods fell $28m, driven by cereal grains and cereal preparations which fell from record high exports in February.

Rural goods, seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Rural goods4 0594 1784 150- 28- 1
 Meat and meat preparations1 0821 0721 123515
 Cereal grains and cereal preparations1 0261 186871- 315- 27
 Wool and sheepskins184208222147
 Other rural(a)1 7671 7111 93422313

(a) For all time periods, estimates for sugar, sugar preparations and honey are included in Other non-rural.

Non-rural goods

Non-rural goods rose $156m, mostly driven by metal ores and minerals.

 

Non-rural goods, seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Non-rural goods27 49326 88027 0361561
 Metal ores and minerals15 90215 05915 3813222
 Coal, coke and briquettes3 0803 3883 007- 381- 11
 Other mineral fuels3 2953 4743 509351
 Metals (excl. non-monetary gold)1 0221 0481 014- 34- 3
 Machinery894836904688
 Transport equipment315309304- 5- 2
 Other manufactures1 8381 6411 7771368
 Other non-rural (incl. sugar and beverages)(a)1 002932969374
 Goods procured in ports by carriers(b)144192171- 21- 11

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)  (a) This component is not seasonally adjusted. 
(a) For all time periods, estimates for sugar, sugar preparations and honey are included in Other non-rural. 
(b) In using these seasonally adjusted series, care should be exercised because of the difficulties associated with reliably estimating the seasonal pattern.

For price and volume details, see the Selected commodities information available in the supplementary-information section.

Services credits

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(a) Trend series suspended from March 2019

Services credits, seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Total services credits5 2084 9984 897- 101- 2
 Manufacturing services on physical inputs owned by others(a)222--
 Maintenance and repair services n.i.e.(a)555--
 Transport3093103111-
  Passenger(b)122--
  Freight(c)202020--
  Other162162162--
  Postal and courier services(d)12612612711
 Travel2 3572 1372 020- 117- 5
 Other services2 5352 5452 559141
Memorandum item     
 Tourism related services credits(e)2 3582 1392 022- 117- 5

- Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells) 
(a) This component is not seasonally adjusted. 
(b) Passenger transportation services includes agency fees and commissions for air transport. 
(c) In using these seasonally adjusted series, care should be exercised because of the difficulties associated with reliably estimating the seasonal pattern. 
(d) Postal and courier services includes indirect commissions for sea transport. 
(e) For a more detailed explanation of tourism related services, see the Explanatory notes. 

Goods and services debits (imports), seasonally adjusted

Goods debits

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(a) Trend series suspended from March 2019

Goods debits (imports) (a), seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Total goods debits-25 953-27 259-28 5781 3195
 General merchandise debits-25 508-26 807-27 5977903
  Consumption goods-9 591-9 914-10 0611471
  Capital goods-6 526-6 587-6 8963095
  Intermediate and other merchandise goods-9 391-10 306-10 6403343
 Non-monetary gold(b)- 445- 452- 981529117

(a) For sign conventions, see the Explanatory notes.
(b) This component is not seasonally adjusted.

Consumption goods

Consumption goods rose $147m, led by textiles, clothing and footwear.

Consumption goods(a), seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Consumption goods-9 591-9 914-10 0611471
 Food and beverages, mainly for consumption-1 431-1 461-1 474131
 Household electrical items- 675- 670- 7407010
 Non-industrial transport equipment-2 127-2 350-2 235- 115- 5
 Textiles, clothing and footwear-1 581-1 652-1 88323114
 Toys, books and leisure goods- 675- 724- 718- 6- 1
 Consumption goods n.e.s.-3 102-3 058-3 012- 46- 2


(a) For sign conventions, see the Explanatory notes.

Capital goods

Capital goods rose $309m, driven by industrial transport equipment n.e.s., which recovered from low exports in February after supply caught up with demand following container-shipping delays.

Capital goods(a), seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Capital goods -6,526 -6,587 -6,896 3095
 Machinery and industrial equipment -2,111 -2,375 -2,372 -30
 ADP equipment -930 -1,034 -934 -100-10
 Telecommunications equipment -1,355 -1,244 -1,067 -177-14
 Civil aircraft and confidentialised items(b)(c) -154 -244 -275 3113
 Industrial transport equipment n.e.s. -1,151 -872 -1,336 46453
 Capital goods n.e.s.(d) -824 -819 -912 9311

(a) For sign conventions, see the Explanatory notes.
(b) From July 2008, commodities subject to a 'no commodity details' or 'no value details' restriction are included in Civil aircraft and confidentialised items. For earlier periods, commodities subject to a 'no commodity details' or 'no value details' restriction are included in Other merchandise goods.
(c) This component is not seasonally adjusted.
(d) In using these seasonally adjusted series, care should be exercised because of the difficulties associated with reliably estimating the seasonal pattern.

Intermediate and other merchandise goods

Intermediate and other merchandise goods rose $334m led by fuels and lubricants.

Intermediate and other merchandise goods(a), seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Intermediate and other merchandise goods-9 391-10 306-10 6403343
 Food and beverages, mainly for industry-177-184-18621
 Primary industrial supplies n.e.s.(b)-131-116-1523631
 Fuels and lubricants-2 018-2 261-2 4281677
 Parts for transport equipment-1 142-1 240-1 183-57-5
 Parts for ADP equipment-62-70-811116
 Other parts for capital goods-1 556-1 634-1 64391
 Organic and inorganic chemicals-293-324-310-14-4
 Paper and paperboard-176-187-2112413
 Textile yarn and fabrics-133-147-144-3-2
 Iron and steel-221-251-3267530
 Plastics-345-409-434256
 Processed industrial supplies n.e.s.-3 106-3 445-3 491461
 Other merchandise goods(c)-28-34-491544
 Goods procured in ports by carriers-2-4-3-1-25


(a) For sign conventions, see the Explanatory Notes.
(b) In using these seasonally adjusted series, care should be exercised because of the difficulties associated with reliably estimating the seasonal pattern.
(c) From July 2008, commodities subject to a 'no commodity details' or 'no value details' restriction are included in Civil aircraft and confidentialised items. For earlier periods, commodities subject to a 'no commodity details' or 'no value details' restriction are included in Other merchandise goods.

Services debits

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(a) Trend series suspended from March 2019

Services debits(a), seasonally adjusted
 Jan-21 ($m)Feb-21 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 ($m)Feb-21 to Mar-21 (%)
Total services debits-4 007-4 101-4 123221
 Manufacturing services on physical inputs owned by others(b)-----
 Maintenance and repair services n.i.e.(b)- 57- 29- 36724
 Transport-1 126-1 237-1 255181
  Passenger(c)- 53- 60- 60--
  Freight-1 056-1 160-1 179192
  Other(b)- 8- 8- 8--
  Postal and courier services(d)(e)- 8- 9- 8- 1- 11
 Travel- 48- 54- 5512
 Other services-2 775-2 781-2 776- 5-
Memorandum item     
 Tourism related services debits(f)- 102- 113- 11411

- Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells) 
(a) For sign conventions, see the Explanatory Notes. 
(b) This component is not seasonally adjusted. 
(c) Passenger services includes agency fees and commissions for air transport. 
(d) Postal and courier services includes indirect commissions for sea transport. 
(e) In using these seasonally adjusted series, care should be exercised because of the difficulties associated with reliably estimating the seasonal pattern. 
(f) For a more detailed explanation of tourism related services, see the Explanatory notes. 

Supplementary information

Selected commodities

Selected commodities, quantities (a)
 Oct-20 (%)Nov-20 (%)Dec-20 (%)Jan-21 (%)Feb-21 (%)Mar-21 (%)
Iron ore - Lump9- 1212- 13- 1016
Iron ore - Fines2- 611- 13- 517
Coal - Hard coking- 3- 1134- 21- 1222
Coal - Semi-soft- 1525- 1216- 4- 16
Coal - Thermal17- 1725- 7- 6- 15
Gas - LNG14- 1- 4-- 516

- Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells) 
(a) Data in this table is on a revised international merchandise trade basis and excludes value adjustments applied to balance of payments series.

Selected commodities, unit values (a)
 Oct-20 (%)Nov-20 (%)Dec-20 (%)Jan-21 (%)Feb-21 (%)Mar-21 (%)
Iron ore - Lump2-1612- 29
Iron ore - Fines13155- 12
Coal - Hard coking72(p)- 132817(p)
Coal - Semi-soft1-- 6210(p) 4(p)
Coal - Thermal- 2321384
Gas - LNG1017751- 3

- Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells) 
(p) preliminary figure or series subject to revision
(a) Data in this table is on a revised international merchandise trade basis and excludes value adjustments applied to balance of payments series.

Selected commodity movements

On an international merchandise trade basis, in original terms (noting the footnote in the above table), between February 2021 to March 2021 the largest movements recorded for the following selected commodities were:

Iron ore (lump), movement by country, Feb-21 to Mar-21
 Value ($m)Value (%)Quantity (%)Unit Value (%)
Iron ore (lump) - Total movement77427169
China (excludes SARs and Taiwan)2891348
Hong Kong (SAR of China)2364724298
Taiwan1001026324
Japan99371816
Singapore22331516
Iron ore (fines), movement by country, Feb-21 to Mar-21
 Value ($m)Value (%)Quantity (%)Unit Value (%)
Iron ore (fines) - Total movement1 67219172
China (excludes SARs and Taiwan)1 00215132
Korea, Republic of (South)2886868-
Japan18954447
Hong Kong (SAR of China)16945395
Vietnam- 72- 37- 33- 6

- Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)

Hard coking (high rank) coal, Feb-21 to Mar-21
 Value ($m)Value (%)Quantity (%)Unit Value (%)
High rank coal - Total movement501432217
India190412513
Japan1711106527
Taiwan8128420825
Vietnam5823717423
France (includes Andorra and Monaco)- 40- 87- 882
Semi soft coal, movement by country, Feb-21 to Mar-21
 Value ($m)Value (%)Quantity (%)Unit Value (%)
Semi soft coal - Total movement- 73- 13- 164
Japan- 67- 32- 354
Brazil- 13- 77- 68- 28
Taiwan- 13- 32- 28- 5
Korea, Republic of (South)2524194

- Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)

 

Thermal Coal, movement by country, Feb-21 to Mar-21
 Value ($m)Value (%)Quantity (%)Unit Value (%)
Thermal coal - Total movement- 156- 11- 154
Japan- 57- 9- 112
Netherlands- 36- 100- 100-
Korea, Republic of (South)- 31- 13- 197
Thailand- 29- 40- 401
Vietnam22593220

- Nil or rounded to zero including null cells

 

Liquid Natural Gas, total movement, Feb-21 to Mar-21
 Value ($m)Value (%)Quantity (%)Unit Value (%)
Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) - Total movement3261216-3

Selected commodities, quantity and unit value analysis - International merchandise trade basis: Original terms

International merchandise trade exports data presented in the above tables are based on information reported by exporters to the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs). For commodities such as iron ore and coal, newly negotiated contract prices are not fully reflected in data first reported to Home Affairs. Final quantity and/or unit price information is updated progressively in international merchandise trade data as exporters revise the information provided to Home Affairs. When additional information for these commodities is available, the ABS may adjust the data to reflect actual transaction values.

Unit values in this publication are presented in Australian dollar terms. Movements in the unit values for some commodities incorporate movements in the United States dollar prices reported to Home Affairs and movements in the Australian dollar to United States dollar exchange rate.

Value adjustments

Goods credits on an international merchandise trade basis

On a merchandise trade basis, adjustments have been applied to iron ore lump and iron ore fines. When actual final transaction prices become available estimates are replaced with these data. For price and volume details, see the Selected commodities section.

Iron Ore Adjustment, Original Terms
 
 Sep-20 ($m)Oct-20 ($m)Nov-20 ($m)Dec-20 ($m)Jan-20 ($m)Feb-20 ($m)Mar-21 ($m)
Iron ore lump-9-631741920
Iron ore fines29103316660109328

Goods credits on a balance of payments basis

Coal (in original terms)

On a balance of payments basis, adjustments have been applied to the coal, coke and briquettes component in November (-$10m), February ($15m) and March (-$280m). This adjustment takes into account additional information on the unit value of hard coking, semi-soft and thermal coal exports. All previous adjustments have been removed. 

In the international merchandise trade series, the unit value of coal, coke and briquettes rose 7.4% between January 2021 and February 2021 and rose 13.7% between February 2021 and March 2021.

In the balance of payments series, the unit value of coal, coke and briquettes rose 7.9% between January 2021 and February 2021 and rose 3.9% between February 2021 and March 2021.

International merchandise trade exports data presented in this publication are based on information reported by exporters to the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs). At the time of initial reporting to Home Affairs, the final prices at which transactions take place are not known for some commodities. Final quantity and/or unit price information is updated progressively in international merchandise trade data as exporters revise the information provided to Home Affairs.

For commodities such as iron ore and coal, newly negotiated contract prices are not fully reflected in data first reported to Home Affairs. When additional information on quantity and/or unit price for these commodities is available, the ABS may adjust the data to reflect actual transaction values.

Iron ore adjustments are applied on an international merchandise trade basis at the Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) level. Coal, coke and briquettes are adjusted on a balance of payments basis in current price, original terms. When actual final transaction prices become available estimates are replaced with these data.

In most instances, transfer of ownership occurs when goods cross the customs frontier. In certain circumstances the change of ownership of large value capital expenditure items can occur prior to the items crossing the customs frontier. The ABS may adjust the relevant balance of payments series to record the timing when transfer of ownership was affected.

Revisions

Revisions have been made to incorporate the latest data relating to international trade in goods and services since the last issue of this publication.

On an international merchandise trade basis, exports and imports of goods have been revised back to September 2020.

On a balance of payments basis, revisions have been applied to:

Goods exports back to September 2020

Goods imports back to September 2020

Services exports back to December 2020

Services imports back to October 2020.

 

Table 17 summarises revisions to goods and services on a balance of payments basis since the last issue of this publication. In original, current price terms, the revisions have decreased the surplus on goods and services for 2020-21 by $178m.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5368.0.
 

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