Australia’s Trade Surplus for Goods Has Dropped

Australia’s Trade Surplus for Goods Has Dropped
An undated photograph released on Sept. 4, 2009, by Rio Tinto shows high grade iron ore in Western Australia's Pilbara region, destined for China. (Christian Sprogoe/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia’s trade surplus for goods has dropped to its lowest level in two years after China stopped buying a range of exports.

The goods trade surplus for November was $1.9 billion after exports rose just one percent, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures published on Dec. 23.

The surplus for October was $4.7 billion.

There was a 10 percent reduction in exports to China, after its government put tariffs on $20 billion worth of Australian exports including barley, beef, cotton, seafood, timber and wine.

The trade sanctions follow Australia’s calls for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, believed to have started in the Chinese province of Wuhan.

China also stopped buying Australian coal. Coal exports slumped eight percent, or $254 million.

Hard coking coal dropped 11 percent, or $186 million, while thermal coal fell 13 percent, or $161 million.

Since the ban of Australian coal, China is experiencing power shortages in large swathes of southern China, resulting in people’s homes and workplaces not getting enough heat.

Exports of iron ore, used by Chinese steel-makers, declined eight percent or $851 million.

However, this drop followed a record October and the Bureau of Statistics said the November tally was high by historical standards.

Iron ore may yet be subject to sanctions. Chinese steel-makers have reportedly called for an inquiry into soaring prices of the commodity.

Miners including BHP, Fortescue and Rio Tinto have thrived on strong demand and the price of iron ore reached more than $US170 per tonne this week.

One of the key contributors to Australia’s exports increase for November was gold, which rose 39 percent or $746 million.

Gold was sold mostly to Singapore.

Gas was another key export, which rose by 16 percent or $368 million.

Imports rose by 11 percent, or $2.9 billion to $28.6 billion.

A big contributor was transport equipment, mostly from the US, which rose by 462 per cent or $1.1 billion.

The bureau will publish its final monthly estimate for November on January 7.