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5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2001  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/05/2001   
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Contents >> Chapter 4. Classifications >> Commodity Classifications

4.6 The ABS uses the following commodity classification systems to present its international merchandise trade data:

  • the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, or Harmonized System (HS) 1996;
  • the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC Rev.3);
  • the Classification by Broad Economic Categories (BEC); and
  • the Australian Transport Freight Commodity Classification (ATFCC).
4.1 MAJOR COMMODITY CLASSIFICATIONS USED IN AUSTRALIA'S INTERNATIONAL MERCHANDISE TRADE STATISTICS
The number of statistical items at each level of the major commodity classifications used for ABS international merchandise trade statistics.

4.7 Diagram 4.1 shows the number of statistical items at each level of the major commodity classifications used for ABS international merchandise trade statistics. The HS, AHECC and HTISC counts are identical at the six-digit level. Statistics at the most detailed level of one classification can be concorded to the most detailed level of the other classifications in this table (e.g. ten-digit HTISC to three-digit BEC).

Harmonized System (HS)

4.8 On 1 January 1988, Australia adopted the HS for describing internationally traded goods. The HS is a hierarchical classification developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO), and is arranged in a logical structure and supported by well-defined rules and explanatory notes. The HS groups commodities according to the material of which the goods are composed and by similar generic description.

4.9 The HS is used by over 170 countries as the basis for their customs tariffs and for their international merchandise trade statistics. Approximately 98% of world merchandise trade is classified to the HS.

4.10 The classification was last revised by the WCO in January 1996, with Australia implementing the resulting changes in its trade statistics from July 1996. This delay occurred due to the need to coordinate WCO changes with concurrent domestic amendments to the Customs Tariff. A further revision of the HS has recently been finalised, with the changes to be implemented by Australia on 1 January 2002 (see Chapter 10, HS 2002 review for further information).

4.11 Australia has expanded the HS to create the Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) and Harmonized Tariff Item Statistical Code (HTISC) to provide further commodity detail for its exports and imports.

Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC)

4.12 All goods exported from Australia since 1 January 1988 have been classified according to the eight-digit AHECC. The first six digits of the AHECC code are taken from the International Harmonized System, with the seventh and eighth digits (statistical codes) added by the ABS to satisfy Australian statistical requirements.

4.13 AHECC codes provide the most detailed breakdown of exported goods and are used to analyse exports of particular commodities. The ABS has responsibility for maintaining the AHECC documentation. Due to the smaller number of statistical codes, the absence of tariff considerations, and the comparatively less diverse export trade, amendments to the AHECC are made less frequently than to the HTISC.

4.14 The ABS distributes replacement pages for the AHECC every six months. The detailed classification can be found in the Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) 1999 Edition (Cat. no. 1233.0). An example of the hierarchical structure of the AHECC is included below.


LevelCodeDescription

Chapter:08Edible fruit and nuts; peel of citrus fruit or melons
Heading:0808Apples, pears and quinces, fresh
HS code:0808.10Fresh Apples
Export statistical item:0808.10.01Fresh Delicious (red, ordinary, golden, earlidel)
0808.10.02Fresh Democrat
0808.10.03Fresh Fuji
0808.10.04Fresh Granny Smith
0808.10.05Other, fresh


Harmonized Tariff Item Statistical Code (HTISC)

4.15 All goods imported into Australia since 1 January 1988 have been classified according to the ten-digit HTISC. The first six digits of the code are taken from the Harmonized System (HS), with the seventh and eighth digits added by Customs to allow for different rates of duty applied to particular goods. The ninth and tenth digits (statistical codes) are added by the ABS to satisfy Australian statistical requirements, and, in some instances, the information needs of regulatory or supervisory agencies which are able to access the records from Customs.

4.16 HTISCs provide the most detailed breakdown of imported goods and are used to analyse imports of particular commodities. Customs has responsibility for maintaining the HTISC documentation, and distributes replacement pages containing any recent classification amendments to users every six months.

4.17 The detailed classification can be found in the Combined Australian Customs Tariff Nomenclature and Statistical Classification (1996) (Customs Tariff). An example of the hierarchical structure of the HTISC is included below.


LevelCodeDescription

Chapter: 08Edible fruit and nuts; peel of citrus fruit or melons
Heading:0808Apples, pears and quinces, fresh
HS code:0808.10Fresh Apples
HS Subheading:0808.10.00Fresh Apples
Statistical code0808.10.00.03Fresh Apples


Changes to statistical codes

4.18 The ABS has responsibility for the maintenance of all aspects of the statistical code components of the AHECC and HTISC. This includes updating the classifications by evaluating requests from users for changes to the level of commodity information made available. However, the ABS cannot make any changes to the six-digit HS codes for exports or to the eight-digit Customs Tariff codes for imports.

4.19 In attempting to satisfy the statistical needs of a wide range of users, the ABS strives to keep these classifications comprehensive, detailed and current. At the same time, it is necessary to limit the size and complexity of the classifications in order to minimise reporting problems and compliance costs for importers, exporters and their agents. Account must also be taken of the ongoing costs to the ABS associated with editing and processing the data and in maintaining the classifications.

4.20 To balance these requirements, criteria have been developed to assess requests for changes to the classifications.

4.21 The ABS receives many requests for the creation of new statistical codes. These requests are only considered where they are deemed to be in the interests of the industry concerned, as well as in the public interest. Requests of a purely market research nature are not considered.

4.22 Each request must, therefore, have the written support of a relevant government department / authority or industry association. Statements of support should include the reasons for that support and, in the latter case, a list of the current members of the association. Higher priority is given to requests which enable government policy to be better formulated, administered or monitored, or from an industry experiencing or threatened with disruption from imports, where the statistics required would be significant in submissions to, for instance, the Productivity Commission.

4.23 Requests to change classifications do not require government or industry support where the request is aimed at:
  • clarifying a classification structure where it is possible to classify a commodity to more than one statistical code;
  • correcting a classification structure where a commodity can not be allocated to any statistical code;
  • correcting a classification structure to remove incorrectly allocated statistical codes; or
  • updating a classification structure to reflect current terminology.

4.24 When a request is received, an initial feasibility study is undertaken to determine the likelihood of the proposed changes being implemented. Based on its findings, the ABS advises the person or organisation making the request, in writing, whether the ABS is willing to undertake a more detailed Classification Feasibility Study (CFS). Charges apply for both the initial investigation and the detailed CFS (where one is undertaken).

4.25 The conduct of the detailed CFS involves consultation with a representative selection of customs brokers, exporters or importers trading in the commodities proposed for separate identification. Once sufficient responses have been received, the proposal is evaluated in terms of the above criteria and a recommendation, based entirely on the results of the CFS, is made. ABS agreement to undertake a CFS does not mean that the proposed classification changes will necessarily be implemented.

4.26 Statistical code changes are made twice each year, in January and July. In order for a proposal to be considered for January implementation, it must be received by the ABS by early September; and for July implementation, it must be received by early March. This allows sufficient time to survey the brokers, importers or exporters, and to incorporate any new codes into the AHECC or Customs Tariff, for printing and distribution before the implementation date.

4.27 An ABS booklet International Trade Classification Feasibility Studies contains more information about the CFS process. Requests for copies of the booklet, and other enquires about a Classification Feasibility Study should be directed to The Classifications Manager, International Trade Section, Australian Bureau of Statistics, PO Box 10, BELCONNEN, ACT 2616. Contact can also be made by telephone: 02 6252 5409, facsimile: 02 6252 7438, or email: international.trade@abs.gov.au.

Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)

4.28 The Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) is the UN recommended classification for the publication of international merchandise trade statistics. While the HS classification groups commodities by the material the goods are composed of, the SITC groups goods according to their level of manufacturing or processing. The ABS uses the SITC as its primary classification for the publication and dissemination of broad level commodity information in its trade statistics. The HS based classifications are typically used for the dissemination of detailed commodity information.

4.29 The third revision of the SITC (Rev.3), which is currently in use, was developed to better align the SITC with the HS. It was implemented by the ABS at the same time as the HS based classifications, on 1 January 1988. The SITC (Rev.3) incorporated significant changes to the numbering system, and overall structure, to align it more closely with the HS. However, the relevant SITC (Rev.2) headings for refined petroleum products were retained in the third revision of the classification due to the importance of these products in international trade.

4.30 The changes between the second and third revision of SITC, and the adoption of the HS, resulted in a complete break in the international merchandise trade series published by the ABS. To overcome the break in series, and to assist users in the interpretation of the data, export and import statistics were compiled and published on both the SITC (Rev.2) and the SITC (Rev.3) basis for the period January 1988 to June 1988.

4.31 SITC based commodity information is available at the five-digit level (the most detailed level), the three-digit level, the two-digit level, or at a broad one-digit level. It is possible to link data (with the exception of refined petroleum products) at the five-digit SITC level to the six-digit level of the HS classification. Refined petroleum products can only be linked from the five-digit SITC to codes at the most detailed HS levels i.e. eight-digit AHECC and ten-digit HTISC. An example of the hierarchical structure of the SITC is included below.


LevelCodeDescription

Section:0Food and Live Animals
Division:05Vegetables and Fruit
057Fruit and nuts (not including oil nuts), fresh or dried
057.40Apples, fresh



Classification by Broad Economic Categories (BEC)

4.32 The Classification by Broad Economic Categories (BEC) was introduced by the UN in the early 1970s. It is a three-digit classification that groups commodities according to their main end use, namely capital goods, intermediate goods and consumption goods. BEC was designed as a means for converting data compiled in terms of SITC, into end-use categories.

4.33 These categories are aligned as far as practicable with the System of National Accounts (SNA) framework. The BEC classification is suitable for the general economic analysis of international merchandise trade statistics, and facilitates the use of this data in conjunction with other national and international economic statistics.

4.34 The BEC classification groups goods into nineteen basic economic categories. Sixteen of these basic categories make up the broad end-use categories: consumption goods, capital goods and intermediate goods. A fourth category (other goods) includes the three remaining basic economic categories, which have proven difficult to assign. The ABS has combined, for presentation purposes, this category with the intermediate goods category.

4.35 There is a link available between the BEC three-digit level and the Harmonized codes at the most detailed level i.e. eight-digit AHECC and ten-digit HTISC. Concordances are also available for the BEC three-digit level to the SITC five-digit level. An example of the hierarchical structure of the BEC classification is included below.


LevelCodeDescription

1Food and beverages
11Primary
112Mainly for household consumption



Australian Transport Freight Commodity Classification (ATFCC)

4.36 The Australian Transport Freight Commodity Classification (ATFCC) is a four-digit classification system that was developed in 1980 as a co-operative project between the then Commonwealth Department of Transport and the ABS. The ATFCC provides a systematic arrangement of goods which are judged to be important in terms of their impact on Australia's transport network. It includes transportation by sea, rail, road, air and pipeline. It was devised to facilitate the standardised classification of goods carried by these modes of transport to and from Australia and within Australia.

4.37 The first two digits of the ATFCC code are the same as the first two digits of the SITC code. Subcategories are based on the particular kinds of transport handling facilities required, the type of packaging used, and the level of diversity in the physical characteristics of the goods. There is a link available between this classification and the HS statistical codes. The level of the concordance is from four-digit ATFCC to eight-digit AHECC and ten-digit HTISC.

4.38 While the ATFCC is not generally used for the dissemination of trade statistics, it is a key classification used in a special data service provided to transport sector clients with an interest in cargo movements through Australian ports. An example of the hierarchical structure of the ATFCC is included below.


LevelCodeDescription

Section:0Food and Live Animals
Division:05Vegetables and fruit
Group:051Fruit, fresh or chilled
Item:0511Apples, pears and quinces



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