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Services & digital trade

The importance of services trade to Australia

Services account for a significant amount of Australia’s trade with other countries. In 2019-20, services made up 19.4 per cent of Australia's total exports. When the value that Australian services add to goods exports is also taken into account, services represent around 45 per cent of export earnings.

Australia is a world-class provider of a range of services such as education and tourism, professional services, financial services, energy and mining-related services, and environmental services.  Australia prioritises these sectors where it seeks to improve access to foreign markets.

What are Australia's main services exports?

In 2019-20, Australia's five-largest services exports were:

  • Education-related travel services – $39.7 billion
  • Recreational travel services – $16.4 billion
  • Professional services – $6.1 billion
  • Telecom, computer and information services - $5.9 billion
  • Financial Services $5.7 billion

How do open services markets benefit Australia?

Encouraging more trade in services through open markets can lead to higher employment levels, improved incomes and better standards of living in Australia.

Open markets strengthen Australia’s engagement with its trade partners and participation in global value chains.  They also create competition that encourages businesses to be more efficient, putting downward pressure on prices, and gives Australian consumers access to a wider range of services and expertise.

The increased competition that open markets bring also encourages local service providers to become more innovative and efficient in the way they deliver their services. This has benefits for other areas of the Australian economy that rely on the services sector.

The contribution of services to global trade and developing countries

In 2020, global services exports were valued at US$5 trillion, nearly a quarter of the world's total exports (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development).

Efficient services sectors supported by good domestic regulation are major drivers of economic growth, especially in developing countries. Services already make significant contributions to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many developing countries, with services trade – particularly tourism – an important source of income.

How does DFAT promote improved services trade?

Australia, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), takes a leading role in promoting open services markets in forums such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), while looking at new opportunities including through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

We also support services exports by negotiating Free Trade Agreements with other countries.

Australia is also working to improve the international competitiveness of Australian services exporters and boost services exports through Australia’s Services Exports Action Plan.

Find out more about Australia's services trade

The annual DFAT publication Trade and Investment at a Glance contains the latest statistics and analysis on the composition and direction of Australia's services trade.

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