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 has a small open economy that is significantly influenced by external factors, such as investment associated with major projects, economic conditions in trading nations, commodity prices and exchange rates. The structure of the economy reflects the NT’s abundant natural resources, strategic defence significance, tourism attractions and relatively large government and community services sector.
National and international economic activity influences the NT economy through changes to exchange rates, commodity prices, population flows, interstate trade volumes, tourism activity and the availability of workers to meet the NT’s labour requirements. Additionally, monetary policy set by the Reserve Bank of Australia influences household consumption, business confidence and investment in the NT.
Major Asian economies, including Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Republic of Korea and Indonesia, are in close proximity to the NT and have significant trade ties that make them some of the NT’s major trading partners. The NT 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 2020-21, the NT had the second 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 3.2% to total imports and service exports contribute 2.4% to total exports.
A depreciation in the Australian dollar may decrease (increase) demand for service imports (exports) as domestic services become relatively more affordable.
Trade balance 2020-21
- In 2020-21, the NT’s trade balance fell by 7.2% to $9.9 billion, above the 10-year average of $5.2 billion (Chart 2).
- Net exports of goods decreased by 7.4% to $9.7 billion, reflecting a 5.5% decline in goods exports and a 2.2% increase in goods imports.
- Net exports of services increased by 1.9% to $215 million, reflecting an 82.3% decline in service imports, partially offset by a 56.5% decrease in service exports (Chart 3).
- The decline in goods exports to $12.2 billion (Chart 4) reflects decreases in confidential items (down by 26.3%).
- 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 March 2022:
- The NT’s value of exports rose by 46.4% to $14.7 billion.
- Japan was the largest export market for the NT (up by $2.1 billion to $6.2 billion), followed by China (up by $142 million to $2.5 billion) and Singapore (up by $1.8 billion to $2.0 billion) (Chart 5).
- Main commodities exported from the NT were confidential items (most likely liquefied natural gas) (87.96%), metalliferous ores and metal scrap (8.75%) and live animals (2.86%) .
In the year to March 2022:
- The NT’s value of imports rose by 58.8% to $1.6 billion.
- The largest import markets were Singapore (up by $217 million to $337 million), Malaysia (up by $44 million to $263 million) and Korea (up by $179 million to $250 million) (Chart 6).
- Main commodities imported to the NT were petroleum and petroleum-related products (51.3%), road vehicles (15.2%) and confidential items (8.5%).
- Fell 56.5% to $300 million in 2020-21.
- The major components of the NT’s international service exports include personal travel services and government goods and services (latest period calendar year 2020).
- Fell 82.3% to $85 million in 2020-21.
- The major components of the NT’s international service imports include personal travel services and freight services (latest period calendar year 2020).
In the year to March 2022:
- Australia’s national trade balance increased by 57.5% to $124.9 billion.
- This reflects an increase in trade of goods (up by 100.8% to $126.7 billion), partly offset by a decline in trade of services (down by 111.6% to $1.9 billion).
- The RBA increased the official cash rate to 0.35% in its most recent May 2022 monetary policy meeting.
- The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO) April 2022 has deteriorated in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which is expected to severely set back the global recovery, slowing growth and increasing inflation. Furthermore, strict lockdowns in China have slowed manufacturing activity which may affect global supply chains. The global economy grew by 6.1% in 2021 and is expected to grow by 3.6% in 2022. This represents a 0.8 percentage point decrease from the January 2022 forecast for 2022.
- 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.