China's share of Australia's merchandise imports hit a record high in 2020

Data: International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia

You can access data here: Link

According to the ABS: “Merchandise trade statistics on an international merchandise trade basis are compiled from information submitted by exporters and importers or their agents to the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs). Adjustments for coverage, timing and valuation are made to international merchandise trade data to convert them to a balance of payments basis. The services data are sourced from the quarterly Survey of International Trade in Services and a range of administrative data and indicator series.”

The Trend

Before I start, just a reminder that you can use our app called Australia - International Trade in Goods and Services here to explore the trends of imports and exports across a long period of time and many categories.

The first figure shows the monthly trend for merchandise imports from China over the last four years. As the figure shows, the pandemic seems to have led to an increase in imports from China between April and July 2020. Also, the value of imports from China in November and especially December 2020 seem to be higher than the previous years.

Now, let’s look at this value out of total merchandise imports from all countries. As the figure shows, as the pandemic started, the combined effect of an increase in imports from China and a decline in imports from the rest of the world led to a major jump in the share of total merchandise imports coming from China. I am not sure how much of this was directly in response to the pandemic but I am looking into some of the sub-categories of imports to explore this further.

Now, let’s look at this trend at the annual level and also bring more history into this. As you can see here, share of Australia’s merchandise imports from China out of total merchandise imports hit 28.8% in 2020 which was the highest value on record.