Celebrating 50 years of DFAT's Composition of Trade publication

Media Release

25 February 2015

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has today published the 2013-14 edition of Composition of Trade Australia. This special edition marks the publication’s 50th anniversary and includes the article – Fifty years of Australia’s trade – analysing the changes in the composition of Australia’s trade from 1963-64 to today. It explores the overall trends and growth of exports and imports, and the shifts in the countries we trade with and the commodities we trade.

Our trade has changed over time. Fifty years ago the United Kingdom was Australia’s largest merchandise export destination. In the mid-1960s Japan became our principal merchandise export destination and held this top spot for 43 years. Today China is our largest merchandise export destination having taken top position in 2009-10.

The United Kingdom was also Australia’s largest merchandise import source 50 years ago. In 1966-67 that changed to the United States, and remained so for almost 40 years (apart from three years in the mid-1980s when Japan was our top source), until 2005-06 when China became our largest merchandise import source.

There have been changes in what we trade. In 1963-64 wool and wheat dominated Australian exports. Fifty years later iron ore & concentrates and coal are Australia’s top two exports. Transport services was our largest import in 1963-64, followed by motor vehicles, parts & accessories. In 2013-14 personal travel (excluding education) services was the largest import followed by crude petroleum and refined petroleum.

The new edition of DFAT’s Composition of Trade, Australia 2013-14 shows Australia’s exports of goods and services rose 9.5 per cent year-on-year to $331.2 billion in 2013-14 while goods and services imports rose 5.3 per cent to $338.0 billion.

The analyses and tables from the publications, along with Excel pivot tables and historical tables, are available on the DFAT website or please email statssection@dfat.gov.au for a customised consultancy service.

Last Updated: 25 February 2015