Australia has long been recognized as an important contributor of raw materials to world-trade channels. Its exports have consisted principally of a few important products of the range, farm, and mine produced in competition with other continents. Its close ties with Great Britain and other nations in the Empire are reflected by the direction of Australian trade and by its trade agreements and preferences. Although Australia has become progressively more urban and industrial, it has been able to maintain large outputs of primary goods through mechanization of her large-scale agricultural, pastoral, and mining industries. It is likely that Australian trade relationships in the future will become closer with her near neighbors in southeast Asia and perhaps shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific basin.
Most of Australia's foreign trade is conducted through the ports of the capital cities and a few other centers such as Newcastle, Geelong, and Albany. These major centers alone provide the facilities for handling large overseas vessels and providing them with outgoing cargoes. Most of these major ports have been developed on natural harbors, and the associated urban centers constitute a large part of the Australian market.
Specialized facilities for handling exports are provided at these ports. Modern bulk-handling equipment is now available at several centers such as Sydney, Newcastle, and Geelong. Wool warehouses and export facilities are important features at every major Australian port. Plants for slaughtering, freezing, and storing meats are available at many centers. Specialized machinery is important at Newcastle, Port Pirie, Whyalla, Port Kembla, and elsewhere to facilitate the handling of coal, ore, and stone shipments. Large general cargo and passenger docks are available at each of the capital city ports. Australia has scores of outlying harbors that serve local coastal districts and share in the coastwise trade of the continent.