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Feature Article - Experimental Statistics on Australia's Exporters and Importers
Information on service exporters and importers is available from the Survey of International Trade in Services (SITS). The ABS uses a wide range of information sources to maintain and update its record of businesses engaged in international trade in services. Users should be aware that:
The current SITS population frame includes about 3,500 businesses. Analysis shows that about 1,000 (29%) of these only export services; 1,200 (34%) both export and import services; and 1,300 (37%) only import services. Some of these businesses also export and / or import goods.
Estimates in the following tables for goods exporters and importers have been derived using the methodology described in the Appendix. Data on the number of Customs entries refer to the number of single line entries on Customs records for goods that have been exported from Australia or imported into Australia after clearance by Customs. A line entry is typically completed for each commodity and destination in a single shipment.
The number of businesses excludes those with exports or imports below $10,000 in the six month reference period.
The number of businesses exporting goods, in the reference period 1 July 2001 to 31 December 2001, was estimated to be 22,581, as shown in table F1. This excludes businesses or households whose exports were less than $10,000 in this period. The estimate of the number of exporters is subject to sampling error because of the methodology used. The standard error on the estimate is 641 i.e. there is one chance in twenty that the true value falls outside the range from 21,299 to 23,863.
Analysis of the SITS population indicated that there were approximately 2,200 service exporters for this period (1,000 that export only and 1,200 that both export and import). Using the ABNs, the SITS population was matched against the Customs goods exporter population. Around 35% (770) of businesses that engaged in service exports were also exporters of goods.
By eliminating the double counting, it was estimated that the total number of businesses that exported goods and services in this reference period was 24,011 (22,581 plus 2,200 less 770). Users should note that this estimate is subject to sampling error and a range of non-sampling errors. More accurate estimates will be possible when ABN reporting for goods exporters is further improved. Importantly, users should also note that this estimate generally does not include the large number of businesses that supply goods and services to overseas visitors in Australia.
Australia's goods exports were dominated by a relatively small number of exporters. There were 109 businesses with goods exports of $100m or more, accounting for almost 60% of the value of goods exports during the reference period. The 2,746 largest goods exporters, with exports valued at $1m or more, accounted for 94% of the value of goods exports. There were almost 7,000 businesses exporting between $100,000 and $1m (accounting for 3.5% of the value of all goods exports).
There were about 13,000 businesses with exports valued between $10,000 and $100,000, representing 57% of the number of goods exporters, and 0.8% of the value of goods exports. These businesses averaged five Customs entries each during the reference period.
TABLE F1: EXPORTERS - HALF YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 2001
The objective of an industrial classification is to identify groups of businesses which carry out similar economic activities. Each such grouping constitutes an industry and the activities which characterise the businesses are defined as the primary activities of that industry. A business can then be assigned to a particular industry based on its predominant activities. Businesses have been coded to industry based on the description they provided when applying for an Australian Business Number.
The above standard concept of an industry is referred to as industry of exporter or importer in the tables. Until the ABN was introduced, it was not possible to produce trade data on the standard industry basis. Instead, data have previously been classified by industry of origin i.e. commodities traded were allocated to the industry most likely to have produced the good (see Tables 27 and 28 in this publication).
At the present time it is not possible to include service exporters or importers classified by industry, but this is expected to change in the future. The industry tables in this article are therefore restricted to goods exporters and importers.
Readers are reminded that it is the owner of the good at the time of export / import that is being classified here, not the producer of the good. The most significant exporting industries (of the owning business) were manufacturing (38% of the value of goods exports), mining (29%) and wholesale trade (23%), as shown in table F2. These three industries accounted for $56.6b of the $62.8b of goods exported from Australia in the second half of 2001. The next most significant industry was agriculture, forestry and fishing, with 3% or $1.7b. The low values for agriculture, forestry and fishing reflect that most exports of agricultural commodities are made by commodity marketing authorities, which are classified as wholesalers.
The finance and insurance industry accounted for just over 2% of merchandise exports. At first glance this may be unexpected as these industries generally produce services rather than goods. Sometimes the holding company of a diverse business group was the exporter of the goods produced by that group (holding companies are generally classified to the finance industry). In addition, the finance industry had large exports of gold.
Another 1% of exports was attributed to the transport and storage industry, but this appears to be an overstatement due to misreporting. The ABN of the transporter of the goods, or the Customs agent, was sometimes reported on the Customs entries rather than the ABN of the actual owner of the goods. Where this occurred, the ABS was able to resolve the ownership of the largest value exports, but the correct owner information of the smaller value exports was not sought.
TABLE F2: EXPORTERS OF GOODS, INDUSTRY OF EXPORTER - HALF YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 2001
Table F3 compares the industry of the exporter with the industry of origin of the commodity. This shows that mining commodities had the highest proportion of exports (80%) by the industry that generally produced them i.e. the mining industry. By comparison, only 15% of Australia's $6.6b of agricultural, forestry and fishing commodity exports were exported directly by the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries. Most were exported by wholesalers (76%).
Exports of manufactured goods were $37.5b, of which $22.2b (59%) were exported by the manufacturing industry, $7.2b (19%) by the wholesale trade industry and $4.4b (12%) by the mining industry. In regard to mining, users should note that semi-processed materials (e.g. alumina) are considered manufactures.
TABLE F3: EXPORTS OF GOODS - HALF YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 2001
State Of Origin Of Commodity
In the second half of 2001, 26% of Australia's goods exports came from Western Australia, followed by Queensland with 20%. These two States accounted for 74% ($13.7b) of exports by the mining industry. New South Wales and Victoria each accounted for 18% of Australia's exports, most of which were by the manufacturing industry.
TABLE F4: EXPORTS OF GOODS, INDUSTRY OF EXPORTER BY STATE OF ORIGIN OF COMMODITY - HALF YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 2001
The number of businesses importing goods, in the reference period 1 July 2001 to 31 December 2001, was estimated to be 41,110. This excludes businesses whose imports were less than $10,000 in this period.
The 70 largest goods importers accounted for $21.9b (36%) of Australia's goods imports. There were 5,328 businesses that imported goods worth $1m or more, together accounting for $55.8b (91%) of goods imports.
Analysis of the SITS population indicated that there were approximately 2,500 service importers for this period (1,200 that both export and import and 1,300 that import only). Users should note that some businesses import both goods and services, but no estimate of the total number of importers of goods and / or services, eliminating duplicates, has yet been made.
TABLE F5: IMPORTERS - HALF YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 2001
Most goods imports were by the wholesale trade (44% by value) and manufacturing (37%) industries. Together these accounted for $49.4b (81%) of Australia's $61.2b goods imports during the second half of 2001. The next most significant industry was retail trade with $3.7b (6%) of goods imports. Imports by machinery and equipment manufacturers, and machinery and motor vehicle wholesalers, were significant, together accounting for $22.5b (37%) of Australia's goods imports.
TABLE F6: IMPORTERS OF GOODS, INDUSTRY OF IMPORTER - HALF YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 2001
The ABS would appreciate feedback on the usefulness of these experimental estimates and how frequently such estimates should be compiled. It does not expect to commence regular publication of any additional data series until it is able to apply a similar methodology to match Customs records with the ABS business register. Planned developments within Customs and the ABS are expected to improve the quality of the input data, the efficiency of the processes involved, and the comparability of the estimates produced with other data sources.
APPENDIX: METHODS USED IN COMPILING THE GOODS STATISTICS
The introduction of the Australian Business Number (ABN), in July 2000, provides the opportunity to expand the range of data available on the international trading activities of Australian businesses, by linking records in different administrative data sources.
There is considerable interest in the characteristics of Australian businesses that trade internationally, particularly those that export. Prior to the introduction of the ABN, it was not generally possible to bring together from Customs systems all the import or export transactions relating to a single business. Similarly, there was no effective means of linking this information with other information held on that business.
Supply of customs and taxation information to the ABS for statistical purposes is provided for, both by the Commonwealth legislation relating to the requirements for these records to be lodged, and the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Data supplied to the ABS are protected by the secrecy provisions of Section 19 of the Act which protects the rights of data providers.
Some information on exporters has been available from ABS surveys, such as the longitudinal survey of businesses conducted during the period 1994 to 1998 which collected information from a sample of exporters.
Surveys are expensive to run and place a significant load on data providers. Linking of existing datasets allows new statistics to be created, without placing any additional reporting load on businesses.
The statistics on goods exporters and importers included in this article are considered experimental because they are subject to limitations in terms of the data available and methodology applied.
Data included in this article are for the reference period 1 July 2001 to 31 December 2001. While ABN reporting for Customs import and export entries has been required from 1 July 2000, it took time for the proportion of entries with an ABN to reach a level sufficient for this analysis. To enhance the analysis in the chosen reference period, steps were taken by the ABS to improve ABN accuracy and coverage in the data supplied.
To determine some of the characteristics of Australia's exporters and importers of goods, information in respect of businesses identified from Customs records was extracted from the Australian Business Register. The statistics on goods exporters and importers published in this article have been produced by applying the following steps.
Step 1: Exports and imports of goods were each aggregated by individual ABN. For large value exports / imports that did not provide an ABN of the owner, the exporter's / importer's name on the Customs entries was used to clerically identify the relevant ABN from the ABR. This increased the proportion of Customs entries covered by an ABN to 89.5% of export entries (95.6% by value of exports) and 96.3% of import entries (98.9% by value of imports).
Step 2: The industry, classified to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, 1993 (ANZSIC), of each business was extracted from the Australian Business Register. For the largest value exporters and importers, the industry code assigned by the ATO was checked against the ABS business register and any differences resolved. The industry is coded by the ATO from the description supplied when the business applied for an ABN.
Step 3: Merge trade and Australian Business Register industry data by ABN.
Step 4: Where businesses exported or imported less than $10,000 in goods during the reference period, they were excluded from the business counts in the tables. Most of these very small importers / exporters had only one transaction during the period.
Step 5: For exporters / importers for which no ABN was known, the business characteristics could not be determined. In these cases, the value data were distributed according to the patterns observed for businesses with an ABN that exported / imported the same commodities (at the Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) / Harmonized Tariff Item Statistical Code (HTISC) 4-digit level).
The number of businesses covered by those Customs entries without a recorded ABN was estimated. A random sample of the exporter names with no ABN was taken. ABNs were identified clerically for the sampled businesses. ABNs in the sample were then matched against the businesses with ABNs. The number of additional exporters identified from the sample was used to estimate the number of unique exporters for which there was no ABN.
The total number of goods importers was derived in a more straightforward fashion. All goods importers must be registered with Customs and are allocated a unique 'Owner number'. The number of import Owner numbers has a close relationship to the number of ABNs. The number of Owner numbers without an associated ABN was simply added to the number of importers with an ABN to obtain the overall estimate.
Step 6: As required by ABS legislation, data were actively confidentialised, i.e. confidential cells of data are not published. The normal treatment of international merchandise trade data is covered by special legislative confidentiality rules, whereby confidential commodities are placed in a separate category 'Combined confidential items of trade and commodities'. The different methods result in slightly different aggregated output for State and Industry of origin data.
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