Saturday 4 July 2020

EXPORT! (Australia, 1963)

What a stamp! What a statement! The ship loading with containers; the swoosh of movement from Australia around the globe and into the contrails formed by the aeroplane. It feels a bit charming now, but I wonder how modern it felt in 1963…

Whether by coincidence or design, 1963 was the first year that Australis published its Composition of Trade report. This captured information (before we started to call it data) about Australia’s imports and exports and is a lovely snapshot. In 1963, Australia’s main exports were wool and wheat, followed by beef, veal and sugar. By 2013, the main exports were iron ore, coal and natural gas. Travel services featured highly in both years, but it’s not clear from the footnotes what this means. The mix of exports is intriguing – you can see the shift from an agricultural economy (or the decision to retain more produce in home markets), but it’s fascinating that the things that have taken over aren’t advanced manufactured goods (cars, computers) but are basically fuels for other people’s economies.

The other big shift has been the end destination of exports. Back in 1963, around 35% of exports went to the UK or Europe; by 2013 that was down to 5.5%. China, on the other hand, leapt from 7.7% to 36.7%, with Asia as a whole now accounting for over 80% of exports.

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