Trade is important to Australia for multiple reasons. As with many other countries, Australia depends upon international trade to generate growth across various sectors of its economy, especially in mining. Australia is a major player in the realm of mining with very large deposits of minerals such as iron ore,...
Trade is important to Australia for multiple reasons. As with many other countries, Australia depends upon international trade to generate growth across various sectors of its economy, especially in mining. Australia is a major player in the realm of mining with very large deposits of minerals such as iron ore, gold, lead, zinc, and nickel. Trade in these substances accounts for a little more than half of the country's total exports. Australian government data shows that the value of mineral exports to the nation's economy is over $120 billion. These exports could not exist without solid trade relations with many countries, including China, Japan, the United States, and South Korea. It is the first of those trade partners listed, China, that leads us to the geopolitical advantages to Australia of trade.
China is a major market for Australia's iron ore and gold exports. It is in the geopolitical realm, however, that these exports are most important. A look at a map of the Asia-Pacific region reveals the complexities and dangers inherent in navigating, both figuratively and literally, the waters of the neighborhood in which Australia sits. China is a growing military and economic power with an avowed goal of controlling all the South China Sea as well as strategically important island chains near Japan and the Korean Peninsula. That ambition is perceived as a threat by every other nation in the region, including Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and more. Each of these countries has claims of legal possession of various islands and island chains over which China is actively seeking total control. In addition to the natural resources believed present in these disputed waters, the world's busiest maritime channel runs right through the area, more specifically, the Strait of Malacca near Indonesia. By possessing what China wants and needs, Australia can leverage its exports for geopolitical purposes.
Culturally, Australia gains significantly through its interaction with its trade partners, especially with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). An English-speaking Caucasian enclave (along with New Zealand) within Asia, Australia is a sort of odd man out. By strengthening its economic ties with the countries of ASEAN, it can better assimilate into the neighborhood. The movement of goods and people among the ASEAN (which Australia is negotiating to possibly join) nations would allow Australia to facilitate the development of stronger cultural ties that, in turn, would benefit Australia geopolitically. For these reasons, Australia is also very supportive of the Trans-Pacific Partnership arrangement. This was to include the United States, until the newly-elected president of the United States withdrew American participation in the negotiations.