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 January 2020, the NT’s value of exports rose by 63.3% to $12.1 billion.
- Japan was the largest export market for the NT (up $2.8 billion to $5.7 billion), followed by China (up $114 million to $2.5 billion) and Taiwan (up $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion) (Chart 5).
- Main commodities exported from the NT were confidential items (84.3%) and metalliferous ores and metal scrap (8.5%).
- In the year to January 2020, the NT’s value of imports fell by 12.3% to $1.7 billion.
- The largest import markets were Singapore (down $173 million to $487 million), Switzerland (up $44 million to $233 million) and Malaysia (down $37 million to $185 million) (Chart 6).
- Main commodities imported to the NT were petroleum, petroleum products and related materials (42.7%) and transport equipment (18.1%).
- 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 January 2020, Australia’s national trade balance increased by 159.8% to $67.8 billion.
- This was driven by an increase in trade of goods (up 122.3%) to $69.8 billion and a 62.3% increase in trade of services.
- The Reserve Bank of Australia has lowered the official cash rate to a record low of 0.50% in its most recent March 2020 monetary policy meeting.
- The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO) October 2019 publication reports the global economy is in a synchronised slowdown, with global growth forecasted at 3 per cent for the remainder of 2019 before rising back up to 3.4 per cent in 2020 (a 0.2 percentage point decline from the April 2019 projections in both years).
- 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.