In the mid-2010s, the mining sector accounted for an almost equal share of GDP as the manufacturing industry, whose importance has diminished since the beginning of the 1990s. The construction sector has experienced steady growth over the past decade.
Australia became an industrial society in the context of the Second World War. Then the isolation from the outside world forced local production of a wide range of products that were previously imported. Previously, the industry that existed was almost exclusively processed agricultural products. In order to cope with foreign competition during the post-war period, the state entered into customs protection and subsidies for the domestic industry.
Since the 1980s, tariff protection for industrial products has been significantly reduced and most subsidies have disappeared. In this way, the government wanted to force a modern industrial production that could cope with international competition of its own. This has meant that the manufacturing industry has largely declined as companies that have stuck to old products and manufacturing methods have been eliminated. For example, the automotive and textile industries have had major problems.
Companies that have invested in research and development, rationalization, marketing and modern manufacturing, on the other hand, have performed well, including the pharmaceutical industry.
In the manufacturing industry, the food and beverage and tobacco industries are the largest sector. But chemical products and machines are also manufactured. In the mid-2010s, the government announced that it wanted to develop manufacturing of advanced defense technology.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Australia. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
Traditionally, Australia’s exports have consisted of agricultural commodities, but today the trade in metals and minerals is also of great importance. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of iron ore. Most trade is with China.
Until the 1960s, Britain and the United States were Australia’s main trading partners. But the emphasis of Australia’s foreign trade has shifted increasingly from Europe and the United States to East and Southeast Asia. While the EU and North America have built customs walls against, not least, agricultural imports, the Asian markets have been increasingly opened. At the same time, Australia has become more export-oriented through a restructuring of the business community and through a more free trade-friendly policy. Australia has worked internationally for increased free trade, especially in the field of agriculture, and tariffs on such things as textiles, shoes and clothing have been lowered.
Japan has long been the largest trading partner and exports include meat, wool, wheat, coal, iron ore, nickel and aluminum, but the first place has now been taken over by China. Already in 2007, China passed the United States as the country Australia imports most. After lengthy negotiations, China and Australia signed a free trade agreement in 2015. The same year an agreement was also concluded with Japan. Continually growing markets are also South Korea and Taiwan, which, among other things, buy iron ore and coal. Trade with Asian countries such as Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia has also increased significantly. In the autumn of 2008, Australia and New Zealand agreed on a joint free trade agreement with Asean. In the spring of 2019, Indonesia and Australia signed a bilateral trade agreement, which means that Australia will gradually abolish all import duties on Indonesian goods and Indonesia will gradually abolish 94 percent of its customs duties. The agreement is expected to increase trade between the two countries: Australia hopes to export more beef and sheep products, while Indonesia wants to sell more cars, textiles, timber, electronics and medical equipment to the neighboring country.
With the US, Australia has fought a series of disputes over trade subsidies and barriers. Australian imports from the US are far greater than exports to the US market. A free trade agreement entered into force in 2005 between the two countries.
Australia has also been involved in the negotiations for two huge regional free trade partnerships, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The TPP was signed in 2016 by the United States and eleven countries around the Pacific – including Japan, Australia and Canada, but not China. In its original form, the TPP would have covered 40 percent of the world economy, but it failed before it came into force when the US withdrew after Donald Trump’s entry into the presidential post. However, the remaining eleven countries, which together account for about 14 percent of the world economy, decided to stick to the agreement. After some adjustments, they signed in March 2018 under the TPP-11, or CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Parthership).
RCEP, is thought to include the ten Asian countries and several of Australia’s leading trading partners: New Zealand, Japan, India, China and South Korea. Negotiations have been going on since 2012.
FACTS – FOREIGN TRADE
US $ 257,759 million (2018)
US $ 236,922 million (2018)
– US $ 29,062 million (2018)
Commodity trade’s share of GDP
34 percent (2018)
Main export goods
agricultural products (meat, wool, wheat, wine), coal, metals (iron ore, nickel, aluminum), oil, gas, industrial goods (transport and telecommunications equipment, cars)
Largest trading partner
Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, USA
Controversial zinc mining interrupted
Following complaints from Aborigines, the federal court refuses the British-Swiss company Xstrata the right to expanded zinc mining in the Northern Territory as it would mean, among other things, the redirection of a river in Aboriginal land. However, mining is controversial from an environmental point of view as well, and the environmental movement has objected to the plans because of the risk of hazardous emissions. The judgment is seen as a blow to the mining industry.
First female Governor General
Quentin Bryce becomes the first female Governor General in Australia.
The government apologizes to the Aboriginal indigenous peoples for apologies for old injustices.
The Kyoto Agreement is signed
New Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signs the Kyoto agreement, which the Conservative government has refused to do.
Victory for the Labor Party
In the parliamentary elections, Labor, under Kevin Rudd, wins a landslide victory over the ruling conservative coalition under John Howard.