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Australia: Market Profile

Graph: Australia factsheet
Graph: Australia factsheet

1. Overview

While the mining industry is a key contributor to economic growth in Australia, the economy has been diversified into and dominated by the services sector, which comprises some 60% of its GDP and about 80% of its labour force. Since 2010, information, media and telecoms, accommodation and food services, and finance and insurance have been the standout industry performers. The Australian government recently conducted a performance review of Australia's innovation, science and research system, and is in the process of developing a 2030 strategic plan. The strategic plan will provide a vision of the innovation, science and research system by 2030, set goals, outline the actions required and advocate for reforms on key issues, such as investment, innovation, collaboration and skills, delivering and operating research infrastructure, and how to better plan and use Australia's investment in research and development.

Sources: OECD, Fitch Solutions

2. Major Economic/Political Events and Upcoming Elections

November 2017
Constitutional crisis arose as several MPs, including the deputy prime minister, quitted over a once-obscure rule barring dual citizens from federal office.

February 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce stepped down.

August 2018
Malcolm Turnbull stepped down. Scott Morrison, the former treasurer, became prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party.

Source: BBC Country Profile – Timeline

3. Major Economic Indicators

Graph: Australia real GDP and inflation
Graph: Australia real GDP and inflation
Graph: Australia GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Australia GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Australia unemployment rate
Graph: Australia unemployment rate
Graph: Australia current account balance
Graph: Australia current account balance

e = estimate, f = forecast
Sources: International Monetary Fund, World Bank
Date last reviewed: October 5, 2018

4. External Trade

4.1 Merchandise Trade

Graph: Australia merchandise trade
Graph: Australia merchandise trade

Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: October 5, 2018

Graph: Australia major export commodities (2017)
Graph: Australia major export commodities (2017)
Graph: Australia major export markets (2017)
Graph: Australia major export markets (2017)
Graph: Australia major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Australia major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Australia major import markets (2017)
Graph: Australia major import markets (2017)

Sources: Trade Map, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: October 26, 2018

4.2 Trade in Services

Graph: Australia trade in services
Graph: Australia trade in services

Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: October 5, 2018

5. Trade Policies

  • Australia has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since January 1, 1995 and a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) since October 11, 1967. Goods are classified according to the Harmonized System (HS) for the purposes of tariff categorisation.

  • Australia is a signatory to the WTO 'Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures'. Foreign exporters, however, may find it difficult to comply with Australia's import quarantine requirements. Aside from issues relating to the importation of fresh food and animals, Australia's quarantine measures cover a number of other imported products such as farm, mining and construction machinery, some packaged foods and other products that may pose a contamination risk to Australia's agricultural industry or natural environment. The Australian government enforces its quarantine measures very seriously. Importers have little recourse once a shipment encounters quarantine issues.

  • Imports into Australia are subject to duties under the Australian Customs Tariff. The top duty rate is 5%.

  • Machinery imports may require an import permit – especially used machinery. It is a condition of entry that motor vehicles, motorcycles, machinery (or their parts) or tyres are clean and free of contamination of biosecurity concern (internally and externally) before they arrive in Australia. Biosecurity concerns include live insects, seeds, soil, mud, clay, animal faeces, animal material and plant material (such as straw, twigs, leaves, roots and bark). For quarantine purposes, new field-tested equipment is classified as 'used machinery', and will require an import permit. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) has the power to re-export machinery.

  • The DAWR is the federal body responsible for enforcing Australia's quarantine regulations, including issuing permits and inspecting shipments. Packaging of imported goods can present a challenge to exporters, particularly where the packing materials include wood or other natural products.

  • Australia and New Zealand trade through a Closer Economic Relationship (CER), which is a free trade agreement (FTA) eliminating all tariffs between the two countries. This allows for close collaboration across biosecurity, customs, transport, regulatory and product standards and business law issues.

  • Australia is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and became the first of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) 10 dialogue partners in 1974. Australia has recently signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus.

Sources: WTO - Trade Policy Review, Fitch Solutions

6. Trade Agreements

6.1 Trade Updates

Australia is currently engaged in bilateral FTA negotiations with the EU, India and Indonesia, and in the following plurilateral FTA negotiations: the RCEP (consisting of the ASEAN + Six group of nations); the GCC; and a Pacific trade and economic agreement (PACER Plus).

6.2 Multinational Trade Agreements


  1. China-Australia FTA (ChAFTA): ChAFTA was signed on June 17, 2015 and entered into force on December 20, 2015, covering goods and services. ChAFTA opens significant opportunities for Australia in the world's second-largest economy, by far their largest export market and a growing source of foreign investment. In 2017, China bought almost 30% of Australia's exports, worth AUD116 billion, and Chinese investment in Australia reached AUD65 billion by the end of 2017. The agreement enhances a growing trade and investment relationship between two complementary economies. ChAFTA has delivered two tariff cuts to date, one on entry into force and a second round on January 1, 2016. The agreement provides significant opportunities for Australia's agriculture, food, fishery and forestry products by eliminating tariffs on a wide range of exports including beef, sheep meat, livestock, dairy, wine, seafood, horticulture, hides and skins, barley and sorghum and some other grains. ChAFTA is expected to be fully implemented by January 1, 2029 and by then virtually all of Australia's resources, energy and manufacturing exports will enjoy duty-free entry into China.

  2. Australia-United States FTA (AUSFTA): AUSFTA came into force on January 1, 2005, covering both goods and services. The agreement provides for increased market access for most Australian agricultural products and the elimination of tariffs over time on almost all United States agricultural tariff lines. The agreement also provides for increased duty-free access for certain agricultural products in the form of tariff rate quotas. Approximately 66% of agricultural tariffs were eliminated immediately when the agreement entered into force. The remainder are currently applied at 4% or 5% (except for a small number of dairy tariffs). Australia's biosecurity and food safety regulations remain unchanged under the agreement. Both Australia and the United States reaffirmed that decisions on matters affecting biosecurity and food safety will be based only on science. The United States is an important trading partner for Australia, accounting for 10.3% of goods imported into Australia in 2017 and purchasing almost 4% of Australia's exports.

  3. Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA): JAEPA was signed on July 8, 2014 and entered into force on January 15, 2015. Japan is Australia's second largest export market and fourth largest source of foreign investment. Once JAEPA is fully implemented on April 1, 2034, around 98% of Australia's merchandise exports to Japan will be able to receive preferential access or enter the country duty free. JAEPA has delivered three tariff cuts to date: one on entry into force, one on April 1, 2015, and one on April 1, 2016, along with increased preferential quotas for Australian agricultural exports. Japan has a heavily protected agriculture market and Australia is the first significant agricultural producer to have a meaningful trade agreement with Japan, providing Australian exporters with a competitive advantage. The agreement provides valuable preferential access for Australia's agricultural exports by eliminating or significantly reducing tariffs on a wide range of Australian exports including beef, wine, horticulture, seafood, grains and sugar over time frames of up to 18 years.

  4. Korea-Australia FTA (KAFTA): KAFTA was signed on April 8, 2014 and entered into force on December 12, 2014. Korea is Australia's fourth largest trading partner. KAFTA has delivered three tariff cuts in quick succession: one on entry into force, a second on January 1, 2015 and a third on January 1, 2016. Under KAFTA more than 99% of Australia's goods exports to Korea are eligible to enter the country duty free or with preferential access. KAFTA is particularly beneficial to agriculture as it secures improved market access for Australia's exports through the elimination of very high tariffs on a wide range of exports including beef, wheat, sugar, dairy, wine, horticulture and seafood. Tariffs on 88% of Australia's manufactures, resources and energy exports entered Korea duty free from entry into force, with all remaining tariffs being phased out by January 1, 2023.

  5. New Zealand-Australia: New Zealand and Australia trade through a CER, which is a free trade agreement eliminating all tariffs between the two countries. The CER came into force in January 1983. All tariffs and quotas were eliminated by 1990, five years ahead of schedule. New Zealanders and Australians are free to visit, live and work in each other's country under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement. Furthermore, New Zealand and Australia have committed to creating a seamless trans-Tasman economic environment, making it as easy for New Zealanders to do business in Australia as it is to do business in and around New Zealand. This is known as the Single Economic Market and builds on the foundation of the CER Agreement.

    ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA): AANZFTA came into force on January 1, 2010. AANZFTA is a comprehensive and single-undertaking free trade agreement that opens up and creates new opportunities for the almost 700 million people of ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand. Through AANZFTA, tariffs will be progressively reduced and eliminated for at least 90% of all tariff lines by 2020. The movement of goods will be facilitated via simplified customs procedures and barriers to trade in services will be liberalised. AANZFTA will eliminate tariffs on 96% of Australia's current exports to ASEAN nations by 2020 (only 67% of Australia's exports to the region were tariff-free before the AANZFTA).

Provisionally Active

CPTPP: Australia concluded negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in October 2015; however, the United States has withdrawn from the original negotiations that had to be revisited by the remaining 11 members. The CPTPP also known as TPP11 has now been ratified by the required number of states (seven states, as of November, 15 2018) and will enter into force on December 30, 2018. Australia is among 11 nations that signed the new CPTPP on March 8, 2018. The accord has 11 member countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The 11 countries' combined economies represent 13.4% of the global GDP, approximately USD13.5 trillion, making the CPTPP the third largest free trade area in the world by GDP after the USMCA and European Single Market.

Under Negotiation
The European Union (EU), Australia's second largest trade partner, has launched negotiations for a comprehensive trade agreement with Australia. Bilateral trade in goods between the two partners has risen steadily in recent years, reaching almost EUR48 billion in 2017, while bilateral trade in services added an additional EUR27 billion. The negotiations aim at removing trade barriers, streamlining standards and putting European companies exporting to or doing business in Australia on an equal footing with those from countries that have signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership or other trade agreements with Australia. The Council of the EU authorised opening negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Australia on May 22, 2018. The EU was Australia's largest source of foreign investment in 2017.

Sources: WTO Regional Trade Agreements database, government websites, Fitch Solutions

7. Investment Policy

7.1 Foreign Direct Investment

Graph: Australia FDI stock
Graph: Australia FDI stock
Graph: Australia FDI flow
Graph: Australia FDI flow

Source: UNCTAD
Date last reviewed: October 5, 2018

7.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy

  1. Austrade, the investment promotion agency, provides coordinated government assistance to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and is intended to serve as the national point-of-contact for investment inquiries. State and territory governments similarly offer a suite of financial and non-financial incentives. Australian and state and territory governments provide selected grants to businesses for establishing or expanding a business, or for specific activities, such as research.

  2. Australia is generally welcoming to foreign investment, widely considering it to be an essential contributor to its economic growth and productivity. Within Australia, the right exists for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity in accordance with national legislative and regulatory practices. Australian accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international standards. Accounting standards are formulated by the Australian Accounting Standards Board, an Australian government agency under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Act 2001.

  3. Certain foreign investment proposals require prior government approval. These include investments in Australian land corporations or trusts, acquisitions in Australian businesses where the value of gross assets exceed AUD252 million and direct investments by foreign governments and their agencies.

  4. Australian state investment promotion agencies support international investment at the state level and in key sectors. The Australian government uses transparent policies and effective laws to foster national competition and develop competition policy, and is consultative in its policymaking process. The government generally allows for public comment on draft legislation and publishes and makes available laws once they enter into force.

  5. Foreign entities intending to conduct business in Australia as a foreign company must be registered with the ASIC.

  6. Australia subscribes to the 1976 declaration of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concerning international investment and multinational enterprises. The instruments cover national treatment and investment incentives and disincentives, and spell out voluntary guidelines for the conduct of multinational enterprises in member countries. Australia also subscribes to two OECD codes of liberalisation, one covering capital movements and the other covering invisible transactions.

  7. On February 1, 2018, the Treasury of Australia announced the establishment of new conditions for future bidding for projects related to electricity infrastructure and farmland. Foreign investors are now subject to a new restriction as these areas are considered critical national assets. According to the new conditions, the government now sets the level of ownership and control of a single asset or within a sector on a case-by-case basis, which encourages companies to engage with the Foreign Investment Review Board at an early stage to identify the conditions that may apply to the selling or buying of one of these assets.

  8. In February 2016, the government announced its intent to implement a national register of foreign ownership of water access entitlements, which is intended to enhance transparency and assist in informing the government and the community about emerging investment trends.

  9. Foreign firms establishing themselves in Australia are not subject to local employment or forced localisation requirements, performance requirements and incentives.

  10. Private property can be expropriated for public purposes in accordance with Australia's constitution and established principles of international law. Property owners are entitled to compensation based on 'just terms' for expropriated property. That said, there is little history of expropriation in Australia.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, ITA, US Department of Commerce, government websites, Fitch Solutions

7.3 Free Trade Zones and Investment Incentives

Free Trade Zone/Incentive ProgrammeMain Incentives Available
Free trade zonesAustralia does not have any free trade zones or free ports; however, the Australian government and state and territory governments provide a range of measures to assist investors with setting up and running a business and undertaking investment. Types of assistance available vary by location, industry and the nature of the business activity.
Research and development (R&D) tax incentiveIn 2018, for companies with an annual turnover of less than AUD20 million, a 43.5% refundable R&D tax credit applies. Companies with a turnover of at least AUD20 million have access to a non-refundable 38.5% tax credit. The amount of the concessional R&D tax credit is limited to eligible R&D expenditure of up to AUD100 million with any excess amount subject to 30% credit. Generally, only genuine R&D activities undertaken in Australia qualify for the R&D tax incentive. However, R&D activities conducted overseas also qualify in limited circumstances where the activities cannot be undertaken in Australia. Special grant programmes may be available to assist corporations in the conduct of certain R&D activities in Australia. These grants are awarded on a discretionary basis.
Early stage innovation company (ESIC) tax incentivesThe Australian government is encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship and risk-taking. The tax incentives for early stage investors are designed to connect ESICs with investors who have funds and business experience. Investors in ESICs are eligible for the following:

- A 20% non-refundable carry-forward tax offset on amounts invested in qualifying ESICs, with the offset capped at AUD200,000 per investor per year.

- A modified capital gains tax treatment for investments in qualifying shares in an ESIC held for between 12 months and 10 years, provided that the shares held do not constitute more than a 30% interest in the ESIC. Capital losses on shares held less than 10 years are disregarded.
Other incentivesVarious other incentives exist, depending on sector. Local governments offer a range of incentives to local and foreign investors, including limited financial assistance, state tax holidays and concessional land rentals.

Sources: US Department of Commerce, government websites, Fitch Solutions

8. Taxation – 2018


9. Foreign Worker Requirements

9.1 Foreign Workers

If a business wants to employ foreign nationals to work in the country for a long term, it must first be approved as a sponsor by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Sponsors must comply with a number of obligations, including paying visa holders at market salary rates. Positions must be formally nominated and must meet minimum salary and skill thresholds. Visa applicants must meet English language, health and character requirements.

9.2 Skilled Workers

Skilled foreign workers can be sponsored under the Employer Nomination Scheme or the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme. Workers can also be sponsored on a temporary basis under the Temporary Work Subclass 457 visa, allowing them to work in Australia for up to four years.

9.3 Regional Exemptions

Citizens and permanent residents of New Zealand usually do not require a work permit, but the state has the right to request work visas in certain cases.

9.4 Visa/Travel Restrictions

All visitors to Australia require a visa to enter the country. New Zealand passport holders can apply for a visa on arrival in the country. All other passport holders must apply for a visa before leaving their home country.

Sources: Government websites, Fitch Solutions

10. Risks

10.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings

Rating (Outlook)Rating Date
Moody'sAaa (Stable)14/06/2018
Standard & Poor'sAAA (Stable)17/02/2016
Fitch Ratings
AAA (Stable)01/05/2018

Sources: Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings

10.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators

World Ranking
Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Paying Taxes Index
Logistics Performance Index
Corruption Perception Index
IMD World Competitiveness17/6121/6319/63

Sources: World Bank, IMD, Transparency International

10.3 Fitch Solutions Risk Indices

World Ranking
Economic Risk Index Rank
Short-Term Economic Risk Score6666.771.7
Long-Term Economic Risk Score71.873.474.3
Political Risk Index Rank12/202
Short-Term Political Risk Score75.674.874.8
Long-Term Political Risk Score8888.488.4
Operational Risk Index Rank  19/202
Operational Risk Score72.873.373

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: October 29, 2018

10.4 Fitch Solutions Risk Summary

A key strength of Australia's economic profile is its very liberal financial sector and freely floating exchange rate. Persistent fiscal deficits in recent years will weigh on Australia's economic risk profile, but overall the country still performs better than regional and global peers.

Australia is a free economy with a stable political environment. Its operational risk profile reflects strength in categories such as logistics risk, labour market risk, and trade and investment risk. Strong national institutions and relatively good quality of infrastructure are major advantages. In view of its relative economic openness to foreign investment, Australia will continue to benefit from increased investment inflows from countries such as China and Japan, aiding it to develop its resources sector, while reaping the benefits from increasing resource demand.

Source: Fitch Solutions
Data last reviewed: November 19, 2018

10.5 Fitch Solutions Political and Economic Risk Indices

Graph: Australia short term political risk index
Graph: Australia short term political risk index
Graph: Australia long term political risk index
Graph: Australia long term political risk index
Graph: Australia short term economic risk index
Graph: Australia short term economic risk index
Graph: Australia long term economic risk index
Graph: Australia long term economic risk index

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Economic and Political Risk Indices
Date last reviewed: October 29, 2018

10.6 Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Operational RiskLabour Market RiskTrade and Investment RiskLogistics RiskCrime and Security Risk
Australia Score73.068.071.468.284.3
Developed States Average73.063.370.976.281.8
Developed States Position (out of 27)169162411
Global Average49.649.749.9
Global Position (Out of 201)1912264014

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Graph: Australia vs global and regional averages
Graph: Australia vs global and regional averages
Operational Risk IndexLabour Market Risk Index
Trade and Investment Risk IndexLogistics Risk IndexCrime and Security Risk Index
New Zealand77.573.075.772.089.4
United States76.979.075.282.870.5
Isle of Man63.862.061.849.282.3
Developed Markets Averages73.063.3
Global Markets Averages49.649.7

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index
Date last reviewed: October 29, 2018

11. Hong Kong Connection

11.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Australia

Graph: Major export commodities to Australia (2017)
Graph: Major export commodities to Australia (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Australia (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Australia (2017)

Note: Graph shows the main Hong Kong exports to/import from Australia (by consignment)
Date last reviewed: October 29, 2018

Graph: Merchandise exports to Australia
Graph: Merchandise exports to Australia
Graph: Merchandise imports from Australia
Graph: Merchandise imports from Australia

Note: Graph shows Hong Kong exports to/import from Australia (by consignment)
Exchange Rate HK$/US$, average
7.76 (2012)
7.76 (2013)
7.75 (2014)
7.75 (2015)
7.76 (2016)
7.79 (2017)
Sources: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: October 8, 2018

Growth rate (%)
Number of Australia residents visiting Hong Kong567,881-1.4
Number of Australians residing in Hong Kong9,2331.6

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hong Kong Immigration Department, UN

Growth rate (%)
Number of Asia Pacific residents visiting Hong Kong54,482,5383.5
Number of developed state citizens residing in Hong Kong65,6801.6

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, UN

11.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong

Growth rate (%)
Number of Australians companies in Hong Kong174
- Regional headquarters35-5.4
- Regional offices48-11.1
- Local offices913.4

Source: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department

11.3 Treaties and Agreements between Hong Kong and Australia

  • Australia has entered into double tax treaties with China. The Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) between China and Australia was signed on November 17, 1988 and has entered into force in both countries on December 28, 1990.
  • While Australia has treaties with many trading partners (including some neighbouring Asian jurisdictions), most of them are relatively old and the existing DTA between Australia and mainland China does not extend to cover Hong Kong.

  • Australia has bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with both mainland China and Hong Kong. The BIT with mainland China was entered into force on July 11, 1988 and the BIT with Hong Kong came into force on October 15, 1993.

Sources: Government websites, Fitch Solutions

11.4 Chamber of Commerce (or Related Organisations) in Hong Kong

The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong
Address: Room 301-2, 3/F, Lucky Building, 39 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Email: austcham@austcham.com.hk
Tel: (852) 2522 5054

Source: The Australian Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong

Australian Consulate - General Hong Kong
Address: 23/F, Harbour Centre, 25 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Email: enquiries.hongkong@dfat.gov.au
Tel: (852) 2827 8881
Fax: (852) 2585 4457

Source: Australian Consulate - General Hong Kong

11.5 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents

Hong Kong residents are allowed to stay in Australia for 90 days, but before arriving in Australia they need to apply for a document called an Electronic Travel Authority. This can be done online.

Source: Australian Consulate - General Hong Kong

Content provided by Picture: Fitch Solutions – BMI Research
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