Strong year for trade

AUSTRALIA’S trade performance in 2006 was the strongest in four decades, according to the federal government’s trade statement 2007, released last week. The nation achieved a record level of exports last year, in both value and volume terms, with exports up 16 per cent in value, to $210 billion, and 3 per cent in volume. This was more than double the value level achieved a decade ago. The strong performance was diversified, with 19 of the nation’s top 25 exports reaching record values. Coal was the nation’s leading export, generating $23.3 billion and representing 14 per cent of total goods exports, followed by iron ore ($14.4 billion) and personal travel excluding education ($11 billion). Of the top 25 exports, only passenger transportation services and motor vehicles showed negative growth figures, down 1.5 per cent and 8.6 per cent, respectively. Imports were also up in 2006, by 12 per cent, to $221 billion, while the trade deficit narrowed by $5.1 billion, to $11.6 billion. Despite the drought, rural exports rose on the back of higher prices and volumes. Manufacturing exports also increased (by 14 per cent, to $42.1 billion), as did services (up 8 per cent, to $43.8 billion), which received a boost from the tourism sector and a record number of short-term visitors. Last year, Australia started free trade agreement negotiations with Japan, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Chile, and began a joint feasibility study with the Republic of Korea on a possible FTA. Negotiations also continued with China, ASEAN (with New Zealand) and Malaysia.

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