Australia recorded export figures for June that were higher than expected, as increased exports to China raised totals to their second-highest on record and allowed the country to show that it could deal with ongoing trade disputes between China and the US.
This week’s report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics displayed a trade surplus that shot up 158% to AUD $1.87bn, which was double what analysts had estimated and the highest trade export figure since May 2017.
The data showed that exports were up 2.6% compared to last year, with a range of commodities such as iron ore, gold, farming goods and manufacturing goods propping up the positive results. Australia’s imports dropped 0.7% as lower petrol prices canceled out a rise in transport and telecoms.
Much of the positive outlook for Australian exports is due to China, which was responsible for the purchase of much of the iron ore and coal. Exports to China topped AUD $10.34bn, an increase of almost 40% on last year.
Liquefied natural gas sales to its neighbors across the Pacific allowed Australia to bank an additional AUD $4bn, a 14% increase for June.
In a slightly more negative outlook, agricultural exports should fall later in the year, as one of the worst droughts in recent memory is currently affecting large parts of Australia’s farm belt.
China has been importing more Australian crops in recent years, so the increasing trade war between China and the US has many wondering how this will affect Australian output.
Capital Economics Analyst Paul Dales noted that external output could help the Australian dollar in the coming months, as a weakening currency requires a lift from elsewhere. However, at present, a trade surplus is yet to impact the economy significantly, and if trade disputes do not subside, then the nation could find itself suffering.
Meanwhile, US farmers have been told not to expect another country to fill the void regarding the soybean trade, which could be left behind due to tariffs imposed by China.
Soren Schroder, Chief Executive of Bunge Ltd, the world’s biggest oilseed processor, said that it is unlikely that the fulfillment of soybean demand could occur in a country other than China, and the trade dispute could negatively affect a large number of US farmers.
China brought in a 25% tariff on soybeans last month, with other agricultural exports also in the firing line. These countermeasures came into play after the US imposed its own tariffs on aluminium and steel from China.
Schroder called this a “significant change”, noting that there would be a huge gap to fill from China normally taking in more than “20 million tons of US soybeans in the fourth and first quarter”. He does not expect that any other nation would be able to come in and satisfy the huge demand.
Unless a solution is found, tariffs could have a massive impact on US farmers. President Donald Trump is currently aiming to ameliorate this in a new trade deal with the EU, for which he began talks last month. Trump is hoping to reduce tariffs on European vehicle exports in exchange for the EU taking in more US soybeans. China, meanwhile, is currently sourcing soybeans from Brazil.