The Northern Territory (NT) economy is a small open economy influenced by trade, investment and movements in commodity prices and exchange rates. In this section, analysis is provided on the NT's trade balance, trade in goods and services, national and global conditions, exchange rates, as well as key trading partners and commodities relevant to the NT economy.
Key facts | Trade balance | Major trading partners | Goods exports | Goods imports | Service exports | Service imports | National trade | Global economy | Explanatory notes
The NT is a small open economy influenced by movements in commodity process, exchange rates, global economic conditions, international trade and private investment, historically around major resource and infrastructure projects.
National and interstate economic activity also influences the NT’s economy through changes to population, interstate trade, domestic tourism and the availability of workers to meet the NT’s labour requirements. Additionally, monetary policy set by the Reserve Bank of Australia impacts household consumption, business confidence and investment in the NT.
The Territory is geographically located close to major Asian economies including China, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore and, as expected, these are the Territory’s major trading partners. The Territory also relies on goods imports from the United States of America and the European Union, which are also identified as key trading partners.
- The NT has recorded a trade surplus for over a decade, mainly due to high value exports related to energy and mineral products.
- In 2018-19, the NT had the third highest level of exports as a share of gross state product (GSP), consistent with the other mining states of Western Australia and Queensland, which highlights the resource-intensive nature of the NT economy (Chart 1).
- The NT’s trade balance mainly consists of goods. Service imports contribute 18.8% to total imports and service exports contribute 11% to total exports.
- Further depreciation in the Australian dollar may decrease (increase) demand for service imports (exports) as domestic services become relatively more affordable.
Trade balance 2018-19
- In 2018-19, the NT’s net international trade balance rose by 68.8% to $2.6 billion, below the 10-year average of $3.0 billion (Chart 2).
- Net goods merchandise rose by 80.3%, reflecting an 8.2% increase in goods exports and an 18.9% decline in goods imports.
- Net services fell by 111% to $30 million, driven by a 7.9% decline in service exports and a 6.1% increase in service imports (Chart 3).
- Goods exports in the financial year 2018-19 rose by 65.5% to $9.5 billion (Chart 4), driven by increases in confidential items (up 98.2%).
- For the latest available data and analysis, see the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Gross state product economic brief.
Major trading partners
In the year to August 2020:
- the NT’s value of exports rose by 15.9% to $12.1 billion
- Japan was the largest export market for the NT (up by $460 million to $5.2 billion), followed by China (up by $60 million to $2.7 billion) and Taiwan (up by $685 million to $1.4 billion) (Chart 5)
- Main commodities exported from the NT were confidential items (83.9%), metalliferous ores and metal scrap (8.2%) and live animals (5.6%)
In the year to August 2020:
- The NT’s value of imports fell by 31.4% to $1.2 billion
- The largest import markets were Singapore (down by $372 million to $245 million), Malaysia (up by $15 million to $195 million) and China (up by $20 million to $134 million) (Chart 6)
- Main commodities imported to the NT were petroleum and petroleum-related products (42.3%), road vehicles (12.1%) and transport equipment (11.7%)
- Rose 0.8% to $733 million in 2018-19.
- The major components of the NT’s international service exports include personal travel services.
- Decreased by 20.3% to $585 billion in 2018-19.
- The major components of the NT’s international service imports include personal travel services and freight services.
In the year to August 2020:
- Australia’s national trade balance increased by 16.2% to $69.8 billion
- This reflects a decrease in trade of goods (down by 4.6% to $60.7 billion) offset by an increase in trade of services (up by 347.1% to $9.0 billion)
- The RBA has maintained the official cash rate at a record low of 0.25% in its most recent September 2020 monetary policy meeting.
- The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO) June 2020 publication reports that global economic activity has been more negatively impacted by COVID-19 than anticipated, with a more gradual recovery than previously forecast. As a result, global growth is forecast at -4.9% for the calendar year 2020, before rising back to 5.4% in 2021. This represents a 1.9 percentage point decline (ppt) and a 0.4 ppt decline from the April 2020 projections for 2020 and 2021, respectively.
- For more information and analysis on the global economy, visit the IMF website.
- For more information regarding exchange rates and commodity type and prices, see the Reserve Bank of Australia and World Bank websites.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publishes data on the NT’s trade balance annually. This is in line with the GSP expenditure measure.
- International trade statistics are based on monthly data published by the ABS . This release provides preliminary estimates of Australia’s international goods and services on a balance of payments basis, and merchandise import and export statistics on an international merchandise trade basis.
- A large proportion of trade data has been confidentialised by the ABS. Data can be confidentialised by the source if a supplier’s privacy is easily identified, for example, the NT only has one exporter of uranium. Recent changes in classification of confidential items have further increased the proportion of confidentialised NT data.
- International service exports represents income received by local businesses from overseas travelers, foreign businesses, foreign students and foreign government personnel (mostly defence) for services provided including meals, education, accommodation, entertainment and tourism activities. Service imports reflect expenditure by Territorians on services provided overseas. The ABS releases data for the NT’s services trade on a biannual basis, based on the most current financial year and calendar year results.
- The IMF publishes a WEO report biannually, which consists of an analyses by IMF staff economists on global economic developments during the near and medium term. An associated WEO database is released along with the WEO report, which presents the IMF staff’s analysis and forecasts of economic developments at the global level. The IMF also releases quarterly updates on global economic developments. These are not a full WEO report and do not include an update on the analysis and forecasts published in a full WEO report.
- The World Bank releases data on commodities and their prices on a monthly basis.