• Kyodo

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Japan was Australia’s most important export market in 2001, with merchandise exports growing 9 percent to 23.7 billion Australian dollars (about 1.64 trillion yen at current exchange rates), the government reported Wednesday.

The 2002 Trade Outcomes and Objectives Statement said the largest Australian merchandise exports to Japan in 2001 were coal at A$5.7 billion, iron ore at A$2.2 billion, aluminum at A$1.7 billion and beef, also at A$1.7 billion.

Japan is also Australia’s third-largest market, after the United States and Britain, for services, with A$3.5 billion in service exports in 2000, the report says.

The document deals with merchandise exports in 2001, service exports in 2000 and investment from 1999 to 2000.

The report says Japanese investment in Australia totaled A$49.4 billion in the 1999-2000 term, making Japan Australia’s third-largest source of foreign investment, again behind the U.S. and Britain. Japanese investment accounted for 6.9 percent of the total.

“Japan continues to be an important market for exports of mineral and agricultural products, and new opportunities continue to emerge, even after a decade of malaise,” the report says.

Despite slow progress, the report says, regulatory reform in Japan is strengthening existing markets for Australian exports and opening up new opportunities.

It suggests Australia may benefit in industries that include energy, financial services and care of the elderly.

Australia is also anticipating increased opportunities for growth on the back of its “clean, green image,” specifically in exports of beef following the discovery of mad cow disease in Japan.

Overall, the value of Australia’s exports of goods and services worldwide increased by 8 percent to A$154 billion in 2001, the government said.

But Australia would need to work hard to replicate last year’s overall export growth in the more challenging conditions of 2002, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said in the report’s foreword.

“Australia will need all this creativity and dedication to maintain our momentum in 2002,” he said. “It is clear that with Europe, Japan and the United States all suffering an economic downturn, with flow-on effects to ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and other major customers of our goods and services, 2002 will be a challenging year.

“The pace of our export growth has already slowed significantly, and will slow further if global demand remains suppressed.”

Vaile said Australia will pursue a nondiscriminatory approach to agricultural trade during World Trade Organization talks this year and will pursue bilateral trade deals, particularly with the U.S.

“Improved access to U.S. markets would have direct benefits for Australian exporters,” he said. “Economic modeling has shown that these benefits could add up to A$2 billion a year for the Australian economy.”

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