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 2019-20, 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 14.5% to total imports and service exports contribute 4.7% 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 2019-20
- In 2019-20, the NT’s trade balance rose by 54.3% to $11.3 billion, above the 10-year average of $4.9 billion (Chart 2).
- Net exports of goods rose by 53.8%, reflecting a 37% increase in goods exports and a 5.2% decline in goods imports.
- Net exports of services increased by 79.8% to $223 million, reflecting a 27.1% decline in service imports, slightly offset by a 9.5% decrease in service exports (Chart 3).
- Goods exports in the financial year 2019-20 rose by 37% to $13.8 billion (Chart 4), driven by increases in confidential items (up 39.3%).
- 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 May 2021:
- The NT’s value of exports fell by 21.4% to $9.7 billion.
- Japan was the largest export market for the NT (down by $2.0 billion to $3.5 billion), followed by China (down by $277 million to $2.4 billion) and Taiwan (down by $466 million to $863 million) (Chart 5).
- Main commodities exported from the NT were confidential items (most likely liquefied natural gas) (83%), metalliferous ores and metal scrap (9.5%) and live animals (5.8%)
In the year to May 2021:
- The NT’s value of imports fell by 24.9% to $1.1 billion.
- The largest import markets were Malaysia (up by $112 million to $274 million), Japan (up by $24 million to $131 million) and Singapore (down by $260 million to $110 million) (Chart 6).
- Main commodities imported to the NT were petroleum and petroleum-related products (41.2%), road vehicles (21.4%) and confidential items (8.0%).
- Fell 9.5% to $684 million in 2019-20.
- The major components of the NT’s international service exports include personal travel services.
- Fell 27.1% to $461 billion in 2019-20.
- The major components of the NT’s international service imports include personal travel services and freight services.
In the year to May 2021:
- Australia’s national trade balance increased by 9.1% to $84.6 billion.
- This reflects an increase in trade of services (up by 529.1% to $14.4 billion) offset by a decrease in trade of goods (down by 6.7% to $70.3 billion).
- The RBA official cash rate remains at a record low of 0.1% in its most recent July 2021 monetary policy meeting.
- The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO) April 2021 publication reports that global economic activity has been less negatively impacted by COVID-19 than anticipated in the January publication, with a larger recovery expected for 2021. The global economy decreased by 3.3% for the calendar year 2020, and is forecasted to grow by 6% in 2021. This represents a 0.2 percentage point and a 0.5 percentage point incline from the January 2021 estimates and forecast 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.