Measured by foreign trade volume per capita, Australia is one of the great trading nations, and it continues to show a steady rise in trade volume. Throughout the 1970s, exports regularly exceeded imports. In the early 1980s, however, there was a deficit, which has continued into the 1990s.
Australia is mainly an exporter of primary products and an importer of manufactured and semi-finished goods, although the export of manufactured goods increased by 10% per year during the 1990s. Exports of primary goods accounted for almost 60% of total exports in 1998. Transport or re-export trade is negligible. In recent years, Australia's foreign trade has tended to shift from European markets to developing Asian nations, which now account for nearly 60% of Australia's exports, compared with about 10% in 1975.
Australia's commodity exports are dominated by fossil, mineral, and plant fuels, including coal, lignite, and peat (11%). Wool may only amount to a small percentage (2.5%) of Australia's exports, but Australia supplies the world with almost half of its imported wool. Food products such as wheat, sugar, and meat exports tie with fuel exports as one of the top commodities leaving the country. The top exports in 2000 were as follows:
|% OF COUNTRY TOTAL|
|Coal, lignite, and peat||8.5|
|Base metal ores||6.5|
|Gas, natural and manufactured||5.9|
In 2000 Australia's imports were distributed among the following categories:
Principal trading partners in 1998 (in millions of US dollars) were as follows:
|China (inc. Hong Kong)||5,538||5,569||-31|