Skip to main content

Australian trade volumes grow despite financial crisis

News, speeches and media

Media Release

Media release

The volume of Australia's exports to the world rose 0.6 per cent in 2009 despite the global economic downturn, but their value declined almost 10 per cent, according to a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade publication, Composition of Trade Australia 2009, released today.

The report shows that Australia was one of only three countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to record a rise in export volumes during 2009, proving that Australia was not immune to the impact of the global economic downturn. The other countries to record positive export growth were Iceland and New Zealand.

The nominal value of two-way trade in goods and services fell 10.0 per cent to $506.8 billion in 2009. Australian exports fell by 9.8 per cent to $249.9 billion, while imports fell by 10.2 per cent to $256.9 billion.

  • Australia's top two-way trading partners in 2009 were China ($85.1 billion), Japan ($59.2 billion) and the United States ($47.6 billion).
  • China became Australia's largest export market in 2009, rising 29.0 per cent to $47.9 billion and accounting for 19.2 per cent of total exports.
  • Japan was Australia's second largest export market ($40.4 billion); and India became Australia's third largest export market ($18.2 billion) up from fourth in 2008-09.
  • Australia's top three exports were coal ($39.4 billion), iron ore and concentrates ($30.0 billion) and education related travel services ($18.0 billion).
  • The trade deficit improved by $2.3 billion to $7.1 billion.

This edition of Composition of Trade contains two articles discussing the performance of Australia's resources exports over the past 10 years with a focus on coal and iron ore. The resources sector has grown in importance over the past 10 years with exports increasing over three fold from $37.9 billion in 1999 to $130.8 billion in 2009. With strong world economic growth giving rise to higher commodity prices over that period, resources have dominated the growth in nominal exports for Australia. The sector's share in total exports has risen from 32.7 per cent in 1999 to 52.4 per cent in 2009.

The sector's strong performance has delivered Australia its best terms of trade (the price of exports over imports) in 60 years and has led to a significant rise in Australia's Real Gross Domestic Income. This has helped Australia avoid recession in a time of global economic turmoil and is providing jobs for more than 150,000 Australians.

Composition of Trade Australia 2009, (COT) provides a comprehensive analysis of the growth, direction and commodity breakdown of Australia's exports and imports in recent years.

The COT is part of a series published each year by DFAT, providing a valuable account of Australia's international trade in goods and services. DFAT also offers a customised consultancy service, producing reports tailored to specific requirements. For further information please contact (02) 6261 3114, or fax (02) 6261 3321 or email

The analyses and tables from the publications are placed on the DFAT website at: Composition of Trade. Hard copy orders can also be placed at this site.

Media inquiries

  • DFAT Media Liaison: 02 6261 1555
Last Updated: 9 October 2009
Back to top