Australia has an enviable Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Rising output in the domestic economy, robust business and consumer confidence, and rising exports of raw materials and agricultural products are fueling the economy. Australia’s emphasis on reforms, low inflation, and growing ties with China are other key factors behind the economy’s strength. The impact of drought, weak foreign demand, and strong import demand pushed the trade deficit up from $8 billion in 2002, to $18 billion in 2003, and to $13 billion in 2004. One other concern is the rapid increase in domestic housing prices, which have raised the prospect that interest rates will need to be raised to prevent a speculative bubble.
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