When we think of exports we think of big volumes of coal and iron ore, LNG and in times gone past, wool and wheat. And we think of the mass populations of Asia like Japan, China, South Korea, India and ASEAN.
But whilst the big markets matter in terms of rocks and crops – i.e. mining and agriculture, we also need to know which markets matter in terms of the number of exporters as well as export values. That way we can get a handle on where exporting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are heading and what resources they made when doing business beyond our shores.
Fortunately, courtesy of some new research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) we now are getting a better handle on Australia’s 53,350 exporters of good and services.
The key number is 18,536. That’s the number of Aussie exporters who sent goods to New Zealand. Yes, our Trans-Tasman cousins are top of the pops. The United States is second, with 11,012 exporters. Many SMEs get their start in the USA as they are attracted by the size of the market.
The big story of course is China with 7078 exporters, in third place. The true chart buster. China has not only overtaken Hong Kong on 6686 in the exporter stakes, it has also taken over Singapore on 6511 the UK on 6218 (which may get a boost from Brexit).
To see China’s dominance, just think it’s more than double its North East Asian neighbours Japan on 3329 and South Korea on 2526, even though all have a FTA with Australia.
In short Australia’s exporter action is mainly in ‘the Asian Century’ in North East Asia, ASEAN, India with stand outs like “Gateway” ports like Singapore in South East Asia, Chile in South America, UAE in the Middle East and South Africa on the African continent. Other strong showers are the traditional English speaking markets the UK, USA and NZ along with close ports in the Pacific (like Fiji and PNG).
In conclusion, in terms of exporters, we have an exporter base in Australia that is spread far and wide across the globe but concentrated enough in the bigger markets to get a good bang for their buck. And exporting seems to be delivering to all Australian exporters – both large and small. And delivering the to the workforce too as UNSW research shows that exporters, on average, grow faster, are more profitable, more innovation and pay higher wages and provide better conditions than non-exporters.
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Tim Harcourt is the JW Nevile Fellow in Economics at the UNSW Sydney and host of The Airport Economist on Sky News and Qantas
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