Australia recorded a seasonally-adjusted trade deficit of $427 million in December 2012, an 85 per cent improvement on the revised $2.8 billion November deficit.
The figure represents the most dramatic month-on-month recovery in the trade balance since April 2010.
The strong December result meant Australia's total goods and services exports in 2012 surpassed $300 billion for the second calendar year running.
Data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed exports of goods and services rose 2.6 per cent in December, to $25.4 billion. The increase was driven by an 8 per cent rise in the value of resources exports, as both prices and volumes picked up.
Merchandise exports to China, Australia's largest market, were ahead 14 per cent on November, while shipments to Japan rose 12.6 per cent and to Korea, by 18 per cent. Exports to India, the EU, and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries also increased sharply.
Imports, meanwhile, fell by more than 6 per cent to $25.8 billion.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson said today's data confirmed early signs of global economic recovery, and the continued strength of Australia's biggest Asian trading partners.
"Australia's engagement with Asia, as outlined in the White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century, is reaping rewards for our nation," Dr Emerson said.
"Australian exporters are well-placed to benefit from the expected strengthening of demand in the Asian region."
Exports of non-rural goods were up 6.6 per cent in December, with metal ores and minerals up nearly 12 per cent. Shipments of coal, coke, and briquettes rose 4.7 per cent, and other manufactures increased 8.6 per cent.
Hard coking coal export volumes also rose, notably by 87 per cent to India and by 38 per cent to Japan.
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