Most of the rich farmland and good ports are in the east and particularly the southeast, except for the area around Perth in Western Australia. Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide are the leading industrial and commercial cities. There has been considerable industrial development in the last two decades of the 20th cent., and the standard of living has remained generally high. While the Australian economy fell into a severe recession in the late 1980s and suffered from the Asian economic slump of the mid-1990s, it had largely recovered by the late 1990s, although unemployment remained high.
Australia is highly industrialized, and manufactured goods account for most of the gross domestic product. Its chief industries include mining (much of which is accomplished with the aid of Japanese capital), food processing, and the manufacture of industrial and transportation equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, textiles, machinery, and motor vehicles. Australia has valuable mineral resources, including coal, iron, bauxite, copper, tin, lead, zinc, and uranium. Some lumbering is done in the east and southeast.
The country is self-sufficient in food, and the raising of sheep and cattle and the production of grain have long been staple occupations. Tropical and subtropical produce—citrus fruits, sugarcane, and tropical fruits—are also important, and there are numerous vineyards and dairy and tobacco farms.
Australia maintains a favorable balance of trade. Its chief export commodities are metals, minerals, coal, wool (of which it is the world´s largest exporter), beef, mutton, cereals, and manufactured products. The leading imports are manufactured raw materials, capital equipment, and consumer goods. Australia´s economic ties with Asia and the Pacific Rim have become increasingly important.
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