5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/05/2001   
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9.2 Australia's balance of payments measures transactions between Australian residents and the rest of the world. It consists of the current account, the capital account and the financial account. Quarterly and annual results are compiled and disseminated to a wide range of users.

9.3 Australia's balance of payments statistics are based on the Balance of Payments Manual, Fifth edition (BPM5), which is the current international standard for balance of payments statistics. BPM5 is aligned with the third edition of the System of National Accounts (SNA93), the current international standard for national accounts statistics. Further information regarding the concepts underlying Australia's balance of payments statistics can be found in the ABS publication Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods 1998 (Cat. no. 5331.0).

9.4 International merchandise trade statistics are key inputs to the compilation of the balance on goods and services, an important component of the current account. Several adjustments are applied to put them on a balance of payments basis. The balance on goods and services is published in the monthly International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (Cat. no. 5368.0). This publication presents the major aggregates for, and the balance on, international trade in goods and services (on a balance of payments basis) in original, seasonally adjusted and trend terms. In the balance of payments, exports of goods are called goods credits, and imports goods debits.

9.5 Each quarter, Australia's balance of payments is published in Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (Cat. no. 5302.0). Detailed tables on the balance of payments and international investment position (including foreign debt) for the latest six years are available in the annual Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (Cat. no. 5363.0).

Definition of goods

9.6 The balance of payments definition of goods is 'all movable goods (with a few exceptions) which change ownership between Australian residents and non-residents, whether or not they actually cross the customs frontier'. The standard components of these goods are general merchandise, goods for processing, repairs, goods procured in ports and non-monetary gold. International merchandise trade statistics supply the majority of data for this measure. Various adjustments (as described below) are made to international merchandise trade data to arrive at goods on a balance of payments basis.

Coverage adjustments

9.7 Where goods (meeting the balance of payments definition above) do not cross the customs frontier, they are not captured in international merchandise trade statistics. To redress this, these transactions are estimated, and added to the balance of payments calculations of international merchandise trade. These are mainly large value items of capital equipment (aircraft, ships and oil rigs) subject to a finance lease that change ownership between an Australian resident and non-resident but do not cross the Customs frontier as a result of the transaction.

9.8 Certain goods which cross the customs frontier do not change ownership and are therefore excluded from the balance of payments' measure of goods trade. These include undersea cables connecting Australia to the rest of the world and which remain in Australian ownership.

9.9 Certain moveable goods are included as services in balance of payments statistics rather than as international merchandise trade. Information from export and import entries is used where available, and relevant material is collected about goods that are not lodged with Customs.

Timing adjustments

9.10 For balance of payments purposes, the time of recording of an international merchandise trade transaction should be the time of change of ownership. International merchandise trade statistics do not always coincide with this concept, and, for the most part, it is impractical to adjust the data to reflect the time when ownership changed. However, selected timing adjustments are made to particular goods recorded in international merchandise trade statistics which place them on a change of ownership basis, for the purpose of balance of payments statistics.

9.11 Timing adjustments are made to the following data:

  • exports and imports of ships and aircraft are adjusted to the date on which the business in Australia sells (exports) or takes delivery (imports) of those ships and aircraft;
  • exports and imports of major items of defence equipment;
  • wool exports to take account of wool shipped on a consignment basis to depots abroad and sold in later periods; and
  • any other major capital item for which ABS receives advice that the timing of ownership needs to be changed.

Work flow adjustments (imports only)

9.12 Adjustments are made to imports, from time to time, to take account of distortions arising from differences between the volume and value of import entries lodged with, and those finalised by, Customs in a particular period. Evidence of this variation is obtained by monitoring work flow measures available from the Customs processing system.

Valuation adjustment (imports only)

9.13 Imports are recorded in balance of payments statistics on an f.o.b. basis, and so an adjustment to international merchandise imports (which are on a Customs value basis) is required. The difference is very small. Additionally, the difference between the aggregate f.o.b. and c.i.f. values for imports recorded on an international trade basis is used, in conjunction with other data, to derive the freight services debits (the value of non-resident freight services used by Australian residents) component of the balance of payments.

Classification of goods

9.14 For exports, general merchandise is broadly split into 'Rural' and 'Non-rural' commodities, while goods for processing, repairs, goods procured in ports, and non-monetary gold are included under 'Other goods'. 'Rural' and 'Non-rural' goods are further dissaggregated into specific commodities. Goods for processing, repairs, goods procured in ports, and non-monetary gold, and the specific commodities listed under the 'Rural' and 'Non-rural' headings, are based on the SITC, Rev.3 classification.

9.15 For imports, general merchandise is classified according to three major categories - 'Consumption goods', 'Capital goods' and 'Intermediate and other merchandise goods' - referred to as the balance of payments broad economic categories (BOPBEC). These categories are further split according to SITC, Rev.3 classifications. Goods for processing, repairs, goods procured in ports, and non-monetary gold are aggregated in balance of payments statistics as another group 'Other goods'.

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