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at exchange rate movements. It is active in “smoothing and testing” foreign

exchange rates in order to provide a generally stable environment for

fundamental economic adjustment policies, and intervenes occasionally to combat

speculative attacks on the Australian dollar.

Australia does not have major foreign exchange controls beyond requiring Reserve

Bank approval if more than A$5,000 (US $3,650) in cash is to be taken out of

Australia at one time, or A$50,000 (US $36,500) in any form in one year. The

purpose is to control tax evasion and money laundering. If the Reserve Bank is

satisfied that there are no liens against the money, authorization to take large

sums out of the country is automatic. The regulation does not affect U.S. trade.

3. Structural Policies

Pursuing a goal of a globally competitive economy, the Australian government is

continuing a program of economic reform begun in the 1980s that includes an

accelerated timetable for the reduction of protection and micro-economic reform.

Initially broad in scope, the Australian government’s program is now focusing on

industry-by-industry, micro-economic changes designed to compel businesses to

become more competitive.

The strategy has three principal premises: protection must be reduced; the pace

of reform needs to be accelerated; and industry must learn to do without high

levels of protection.

Towards these ends, a phased program to cut tariffs by an average of about 70

percent was begun July 1, 1988, to be completed on June 30, 1996. Specifically,

in approximately equal phases, except for textiles, clothing, footwear and motor

vehicles, all tariffs will be reduced to 5 percent. Along with these measures,

some of the few manufactured products still receiving bounties (production

subsidies) will have those benefits reduced each year until the bounties expire.

The Uruguay Round agreements will force faster-than-planned tariff reductions

in only a small number of cases.

As noted in Section five (below), local content requirements on television

advertising and programming and certain government procurement practices may

have adverse effects on U.S. exporters and service industries.

4. Debt Management Policies

Australia’s gross external public debt now exceeds US $67.7 billion, or 23.5

percent of GDP. That figure represents 46 percent of Australia’s gross external

debt; the remaining 54 percent is owed by the private sector. Gross interest

payments on public debt totaled US $4.0 billion in AFY 1993/94, representing 6.7

percent of exports of goods and services. Private sector debt service totaled

US $4.0 billion, an amount equal to another 6.7 percent of export earnings. On

an overall basis, therefore, Australia’s debt service ratio was 13.4 percent,

down substantially from AFY 1992/93’s 14.9 percent. Falling international

interest rates caused the drop in the debt service ratio. Standard and Poor’s

general credit rating for Australia remained AA during 1994.


In the past 10 years, the intensity of Australia’s trade has increased, and the

composition and direction have changed noticeably. Part of the shift in the

pattern of trade, especially since the late 1980s, has reflected cyclical

influences such as subdued demand domestically and among Australia’s OECD

trading partners. But much of the shift is structural and has been underpinned

by policy measures which have opened Australia to more international competition.

The structural shift in the pattern of trade can be expected to continue and

accelerate. Australia has long been of lower middle rank in export intensity,

but its exports-to-output ratio has risen appreciably in the past 10 years. The

constant-price ratio has risen by about seven percentage points, reflecting

sturdy growth in export volumes. The current price ratio has recorded a more

modest rise, largely reflecting recent depressed commodity prices.

Composition of Trade

Australia’s resource endowments and efficient farming, pastoral and mining

practices have given it a clear competitive advantage in primary production. A

major share of export revenue depends on sales of primary products and will

continue to do so. But commodity prices fluctuate widely and have shown a

falling trend relative to manufacturing and services. Thus, the Federal

Government sees benefit in diversifying Australia’s composition of exports, and

in particular increasing its exports of services and high-value-added


Australia still runs a significant deficit on its trade in services. But in the

past 10 years, its services exports have grown more strongly than merchandise

exports. By 1992-93, services exports had risen to about 3.3 times their 1982-83

value, whereas merchandise exports had risen to about 2.9 times their 1982-83

value. If these trends continue, the services deficit will be eliminated in a

few years .

The broad balances in Australia’s merchandise trade reflect the traditional

pattern – large surpluses on trade in primary products and large deficits on

trade in manufactures. But in the past 10 years, exports of manufactures

(especially Elaborately Transformed Manufactures or ETMs) have grown strongly.

In 1982-83, manufactures accounted for a little over 20 percent of merchandise

exports; by 1992-93 their share had risen to a little over 29 per cent – the

corresponding share for ETM exports had risen from 12 per cent to almost 20 per

cent during the same period. Australia’s performance in increasing its ETM

exports compares favourably with that of other developed countries.

Traditionally, Australia’s exports have been dominated by large enterprises or

by marketing bodies that pool the output of primary producers. In recent years,

however, small and medium-sized enterprises have achieved significant exports of

manufactures, and it appears likely that such enterprises will be a major source

of export growth through the late 1990s and beyond.


After recording an annual average inflation rate of 8.25 per cent throughout the

1980s, the annual rate fell to 0.3 per cent in the December quarter of 1992. At

1.9 per cent in the September quarter of 1995, the underlying inflation rate was

below that of most of Australia’s major trading partners.

Continued wage restraint, improved productivity, increased competitive pressures

and a broadly based decline in inflationary expectations have been important

influences, and have provided a significant stimulus to Australia’s

international competitiveness.

Balance of payments

Australia has long maintained a position as a net capital importer, drawing on

foreign savings to allow faster development of domestic resources. As a

consequence, Australia has typically recorded a deficit in the current account.

The current account deficit in 1994-95 was $27 billion: six per cent of Gross

Domestic Product (GDP). The current account deficit improved in the early 1990s,

largely reflecting an improvement in the balance of merchandise trade, a lower

net services deficit and lower net income payments overseas.

The current account deficit has widened as imports, particularly of capital

goods, have increased in response to the strengthening domestic economic

activity. The current account deficit, forecast to fall as a proportion of GDP,

remained broadly unchanged in dollar terms during 1995-96. Current stability in

dollar terms reflects a rise in the net income deficit offset by an improvement

in net export volumes and terms of trade.

Australia-US Bilateral Trade

The trading relationship between Australia and the United States traces its

origins to early last century when American whaling and sealing vessels first

put into Australian ports during their Pacific voyages. The first American

vessel to dock in Sydney Harbor, the Philadelphia in 1792, brought a cargo of

beef, pitch, tobacco and rum that was welcomed by the early settlers.

Over the years, trade between the two countries has flourished, but the balance

of trade has always favored the United States. The balance of trade has been

running at a ratio of two to one in favor of the US since the mid-1960s, but is

fast approaching the three to one mark. In fiscal year 1993-94 (July 1-June 30),

the trade deficit was $A8,942 million, up from $A8,063 million in 1992-93 and

$A6,522 million in 1991-92.

Imports from the United States to Australia grew 7.2 percent from 1992-93 to

1993-94. In 1993-94 the US exported a total value of $A14,016 to Australia.

Exports from Australia to the US increased 2.6 percent from 1992-93 to 1993-94.

In 1993-94 Australia sent $A5,074 million worth of exports to the US.

From the US to Australia

The US is Australia’s largest source of imports representing over 20 percent of

the total Australian market. Manufactured goods make up the majority of US

exports to Australia, growing from 84.8 percent in 1988-89 to 90.4 percent in


Principal imports from the US to Australia in 1993-94 included:

Computers ($A1,060 million) Aircraft and equipment ($A891 million) Parts and

accessories for computers and office equipment ($A739 million) Measuring,

checking and controlling equipment ($A527 million) Internal combustion engines

($A421 million)

From Australia to the US

Australia has always been reliant on trade. In the past ten years, the intensity

of its trade has increased, and the composition and direction have changed

noticeably. Traditionally, Australia’s exports have been sold in the US, Japan

and the industrialised nations of Europe. In recent years, however, trade to the

industrialised countries has grown modestly relative to trade directed at the

industrialising countries of Asia. Between 1988 and 1992 Australian exports to

Asian markets grew from $US17.7 billion to $US25.7 billion, an increase of 45

per cent in five years.

Along with the change in the direction of trade has been a transformation in the

composition of trade which is evident in exports to the US. The largest area of

Australian export growth to the US is no longer in the traditional area of

primary products, such as foods, minerals and fuels, but is now in manufactured


While total exports to the US fell slightly between 1989-90 and 1993-94,

manufactured exports rose strongly, particularly Elaborately Transformed

Manufactured goods which increased at an average annual rate of 11 percent.

Exports of electrical machinery and appliances to the US increased from $A37.2

million in 1989-90 to $A115.2 million in 1993-94. Over the same five year period,

exports of parts and accessories for office equipment and computers grew from

$A87.6 million to $A306.1 million.

Principal exports to the US from Australia in 1993-94 included:

Meat of bovine animals ($A1,004 million) Passenger motor vehicles ($A151

million) Aircraft and associated equipment, spacecraft, satellites and parts

($A259 million) Parts and accessories for computers and office equipment ($A306

million) Wool and animal hair ($A167 million)

Prospects for Future Trade

Although fundamentally strong, the trading relationship between Australia and

the United States is not always smooth. There are long-standing concerns over

access to US markets, particularly for key Australian agricultural products.

Since the US introduced quotas on sugar imports, Australian sugar exports to the

US have dropped 15 percent. Access to the US market for Australian beef is at

its lowest level since 1983 as a result of the Meat Import Law. Australia is

also concerned over the impact of US agricultural export subsidies on Australian

exports to third countries, particularly for wheat, barley, malt and dairy


Removal of US trade barriers and trade-distorting practices is not only in the

interest of Australian exporters, but also recent studies have identified

substantial benefits to US industry and consumers from such action. A report by

the United States International Trade Commission, released in November 1993,

concluded that simultaneous US liberalization of significant US import

restraints would result in a net economic gain of $US19 billion to the US


Consistent with the large trade and economic relationship between Australia and

the US, both countries are in continual contact. The trade policies of both

parties are well known to the other and contentious issues have usually been

aired through Bilateral Agricultural Trade Consultations (held biannually) and

the annual Ministerial level Trade and Investment Council which had its

inaugural meeting in June 1993.

Over the last decade, Australia has taken substantial steps to open the nation’s

economy through micro-economic reforms and significant tariff reductions. While

some had worried that freer trade would hurt Australian business, in fact over

the past ten years, while the effective rate of assistance to Australian

manufacturing has fallen around 50 percent, Australian manufactured exports have

increased by 23 percent.

Australia has worked closely with the US in multilateral forums to address trade

liberalisation and economic issues, notably the Uruguay Round of GATT trade

negotiations and through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) process.

Trade plays a vital role in the economic well-being of both the US and Australia.

While the nations’ economies are very different in scale, both rely heavily on

trade to fuel economic growth. Australia and the US are committed to

liberalising trade and instituting the most efficient system of global trade


The United States is Australia’s second largest trading partner. Total trade

between the US and Australia grew by 4.2 percent from 1992 to 1993 to $A19.1

billion and prospects for continued growth are strong. With regard for each

other’s interests and recognition of the benefits of liberalised trade, there is

scope for further significant trade expansion and still closer economic ties

between the United States and Australia.

Trade Highlights of 1993-94

Overall merchandise trade

The growth in current dollar merchandise trade slowed during 1993-94 -

exports increased by just over six per cent while imports grew by over eight per

cent; In real terms, export growth outstripped the increase in imports – 8.4 per

cent for exports and 8.0 per cent for imports;

Australia recorded its fourth consecutive annual trade surplus – $A141

million; however, this was down by over $A1 billion on the 1992-93 level; The

Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) group remained Australia’s major

regional market, accounting for almost three-quarters of merchandise trade.


Japan was Australia’s largest export market, taking almost a quarter of

total merchandise exports;

Exports to the Asian region overall grew by almost seven per cent to $A41


Elaborately Transformed Manufactures (ETMs) exports grew 14 per cent to


$A14 billion – they now account for 20 per cent of all merchandise exports;

Despite a five per cent fall in export earnings, coal remained Australia’s

largest commodity export;

Exports of computers and office machinery, parts and accessories increased

in aggregate by 30 per cent to almost $A1 billion – assembled computer exports

grew by over 60 per cent during the year;

The value of wool exports held steady during 1993-94 – a five per cent

increase in volume was offset by lower average prices (although prices recovered

during the second half of the year);

There were significant falls in exports of both crude and refined petroleum


The growth in wine exports typifies the increasing diversity of Australia’s

export base – they have increased over the last decade at an annual trend rate

of over 40 per cent;

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Manufacturing Survey

revealed that exporting manufacturers were performing significantly better

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