Exports drive country's growth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 January, 2011, 12:00am

Chances are that most Hongkongers have, at one time or another, sat down to a lobster dinner or bought some pearls. And chances are that those gems and crustaceans came from Australia.

But trade between the Hong Kong and Down Under goes well beyond seafood and jewellery. Hong Kong was Australia's fifth largest source of foreign investment in 2009, with a cumulative A$43 billion (HK$331.7 billion) invested in a huge variety of sectors. And Hong Kong is Australia's ninth largest investment destination with A$28 billion invested in 2009.

The trading relationship between Australia and Hong Kong goes back a long way, and is based on solid foundations. Hong Kong is ranked as Australia's 19th largest trading partner in 2009-10, with total two-way merchandise trade valued at A$3.8 billion and services trade at A$3.6 billion in 2009. Apart from crustaceans, pearls and other gems, Australia's major merchandise exports are zinc and telecommunications equipment and parts. In turn, Hong Kong supplies Australia chiefly with printed matter and jewellery, while bilateral services trade is centred on personal travel, transportation and education-related travel.

Hong Kong ranks 18th as a source of overall international enrolments in Australia. Last October, there were more than 7,000 Hong Kong students studying in Australia. Enrolments are dominated by, but not limited to, higher education while, in addition, many tertiary courses are offered by Australian institutions operating in Hong Kong.

The economy of Australia is a developed, modern market economy with a GDP of approximately A$1 trillion. In 2009, it was the 13th largest national economy by nominal GDP, representing about 1.7 per cent of the world economy. Australia was also rated the 21st largest importer and 23rd largest exporter. The nation also plays a prominent part on the world stage, as a member of such influential bodies as G20 and the World Trade Organisation, and has entered into free trade agreements with Asean, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the United States. The Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement has greatly increased integration with the New Zealand economy and there are now plans to form an Australasian Single Economic Market by 2015. Australia is also home to some of the largest companies in the world, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto Group and News Corporation.

Covering some 7,617,930 square kilometres, Australia is blessed with a rich supply of natural resources, and exports significant quantities of agricultural products - particularly wheat and wool - minerals such as iron-ore and gold, and energy in the forms of liquefied natural gas and coal. Although agriculture and natural resources constitute only a small percentage of GDP, they contribute substantially to export performance. One of the most significant aspects of the Australian economy is the export to the mainland of iron-ore, wool and other raw materials, while over 120,000 mainland students study in Australian schools and universities.

In the past 10 years, the Australian economy has experienced a significant shift in the growth of the mining and petroleum sectors. In terms of contribution to GDP, this sector grew from around 5 per cent in 1993-94, to almost 8 per cent in 2006-07.

Growth in the services sector has also increased with property and business services rising from 10 per cent to 14.5 per cent of GDP over the same period, making it the largest single component of GDP. This growth has mainly been achieved at the expense of the manufacturing sector, which in 2006-07 accounted for about 12 per cent of GDP. A decade previously it was the largest sector in the economy, accounting for just over 15 per cent of GDP.

Other trends have seen Australian trade shift away from Europe and North America to Japan and other East Asian markets. Australia's largest export markets are Japan, China, South Korea, and India. Regional franchising businesses, now valued at around A$128 billion, have been operating co-branded sites overseas for years with new investors coming from Western Australia and Queensland.

The economy has been performing better than most other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and has supported economic growth for 16 consecutive years. The economic aftermath of flooding in Queensland is bound to have an effect on the country as a whole, but its natural resources and strengths are such that it is expected to recover after only a few months.

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, per capita GDP growth is higher than that of New Zealand, US, Canada and The Netherlands.