6457.0 - International Trade Price Indexes, Australia, Mar 2012 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/04/2012   
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The ABS is independent of government, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 giving the Statistician the power to control the operations of the ABS. For further information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


The International Trade Price Indexes (ITPI) measure the changes in the prices paid for imports of merchandise that are landed in Australia each quarter and prices received for exports of merchandise that are shipped from Australia each quarter.

The import price index is an input price index measuring changes in prices of imports of merchandise into Australia. Imports are priced on a free on board (f.o.b.) country of origin basis. The export price index is an output index measuring changes in the prices of all exports of merchandise from Australia, including re-exports (goods which are imported into Australia then exported without alteration). Exports are priced on a free on board (f.o.b.) at the main port of export. As the prices used in the indexes are expressed in Australian currency, changes in the relative value of the Australian dollar and overseas currencies can have a direct impact on price movements for the many commodities that are bought and sold in currencies other than Australian dollars. Prices reported in a foreign currency are converted to Australian dollars using relevant exchange rates. Where imports or exports are transacted in prices expressed in terms of a foreign currency and forward exchange cover is used, the prices in the indexes exclude the forward exchange cover.

The International Trade Price Indexes are used by the government and private sector for a variety of purposes:

  • as deflators in the Australian National Accounts
  • as a short-term indicator of inflationary trends
  • for indexation in legal contracts in both the public and private sectors; and
  • by international organisations such as the OECD and the IMF for economic monitoring and comparison.


International Trade Price Indexes are released each quarter (three months ending March, June, September and December). The data is typically released on the third Friday after the end of the reference quarter, depending on public holidays, but no later than one month after the end of the reference quarter.


The International Trade Price Indexes measure price changes, over time, in commodities imported to and exported from Australia. The main source of ongoing price data is samples of businesses, prices of individual shipments are obtained from a large number of importers and exporters. The sheer volume and complexity of these transactions mean that a purposive sampling method is more practicable than probability sampling methods. Purposive sampling involves choosing producers based on the relative importance of the products they sell for exports or buy for imports, who they sell to or buy from and what their pricing policies are.

There are two principle sources of error in surveys, sampling error and non-sampling error. Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort has been made to reduce non-sampling error in the ITPI by:
  • careful design of questionnaires, processing systems and by providing instructions to businesses on how to price a relevant sample of import and export transactions
  • detailed checking of completed survey forms; and
  • instituting a range of procedures to ensure that transactions are priced to constant quality and quantity.

Sampling error occurs when a sample or subset of the population is surveyed rather than the entire population. One measure of the likely difference resulting from not including all of the population in the survey is given by the standard error. While the selection of import and export transactions are based on sampling techniques, standard errors are not available for the ITPI. While it is reasonably straightforward to calculate sampling errors for a level estimate, it is not so straightforward to determine standard errors for the ITPI which uses both sampling and index methodologies.

Prices for most items are collected once a quarter, with the collection spread across that period. As far as possible the prices used in the indexes are actual transaction prices. All prices used in the ITPIs are expressed in Australian currency. As a result, changes in the relative value of the Australian dollar and overseas currencies can have a direct impact on price movements of commodities transacted in foreign currencies.

The ITPIs rely heavily on specification pricing however, for items that are homogeneous and where quality change is minimal, e.g., basic commodities from the mining and agricultural sectors, it can be beneficial to selectively use average unit values as price estimators. Where index accuracy is not compromised, the use of average unit values reduces cost and respondent burden and, in some cases, provide increased robustness and coverage to price estimation. The ABS has access to a rich source of international merchandise trade data and selectively uses average unit values in the export price index to augment specification pricing. Imported commodities are typically more stable in price, but non-homogenous in character and generally do not lend themselves to measurement by average unit value.

Index numbers are released as final figures at the time they are first published. Revisions will only occur in exceptional circumstances.


The ITPI is released by the ABS within a broader set of macroeconomic statistics. There are differences between the export price index (EPI) and import price index (IPI) presented in this publication, and the export and import of goods implicit price deflator (IPD) presented in Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product (cat. no. 5206.0) and Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0). These differences are mainly due to the index methodology (fixed basket price index for the ITPI, whereas the IPD is a quarterly weighted index, this includes price change and compositional change from period to period), the completeness of the dataset used and the source of the data. Complete data for the entire third month of the quarter are not available for some components of the EPI and IPI due to the timing of its release. Further, the EPI is calculated from selected representative transactional data, whereas the export of goods IPD is calculated from predominantly international merchandise trade data supplied by Customs. These differences can result in significant divergences between the measures when prices of commodities are volatile.

The Import Price Index, Australia (cat. no. 6414.0) and Export Price Index, Australia (cat. no. 6405.0) are important economic statistics with each measure having a considerable history. The first index of import prices produced by the ABS was introduced in May 1983 and an index of export prices; of one form or another, having been published by the ABS since 1901.

The Import and Export Price Indexes were published separately until March quarter 2001. Starting from June quarter 2001, the publications were integrated and the key series published in International Trade Price Indexes, Australia (cat. no. 6457.0)

The ITPIs are annually reweighted chained Laspeyres indexes. The import index items are selected based on the significance of the import value in the year preceding the index year (e.g. 2009-10 for the 2010-11 index). The export index items are selected based on the significance of their average export value in the two years preceding each index year (e.g. 2008-09 & 2009-10 for the 2010-11 index)


Movements in indexes from one period to another can be expressed either as changes in index points or as percentage changes. Percentage changes are calculated to illustrate three different kinds of movements in index numbers:
  • movements between consecutive financial years (where the index numbers for financial years are simple averages of the quarterly index numbers)
  • movements between corresponding quarters of consecutive years; and
  • movements between consecutive quarters.

Care should be exercised when interpreting quarter-to-quarter movements in the indexes as short-term movements do not necessarily indicate changes in trends.

The International Trade Price Indexes, Australia (cat. no. 6457.0) contains Explanatory Notes that provide information about the structure, weights, data sources and other technical aspects of the series. Further information is available in Producer and International Trade Price Indexes; Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6429.0) and in Information Paper: Review of the Import Price Index and Export Price Index, Australia (cat. no. 6424.0).


Detailed information, including a range of time series spreadsheets, can be found in the "Downloads" tab of this webpage. For links to data and publications relating to the producer price indexes and other price indexes, please see the Prices Topics @ a Glance.