2.17 There are two recognised systems for compiling international merchandise trade statistics: the general trade system and the special trade system. The difference between them lies mainly in the way goods passing through customs-bonded warehouses are treated. The alternative systems give rise to differences in the timing of recording trade flows. Australia uses the general trade system.
The General Trade System
2.18 The general trade system records the movement of goods as they enter or leave the country. Under this system, imports comprise goods entered directly for home consumption, together with goods imported into bonded warehouses. Exports include all goods moving out of Australia's territory and comprise both domestic produce and re-exports of foreign goods.
The Special Trade System
2.19 The special trade system records the clearance of goods by Customs. Imports are recorded at the point when the goods are cleared for home consumption. Under this system, imports comprise goods entered directly for home consumption, together with goods cleared from bonded warehouses. Exports include all goods exported and comprise both domestic produce and re-exports of foreign goods.
2.20 The special trade system is used by the European Union and Indonesia. An Australian export to a warehouse in the European Union is not declared as an import until the imported goods are released for free circulation or consumption. Goods sent to Indonesia's Batam Island bonded processing zone are not recorded as Indonesian imports unless the goods are released for use in the rest of Indonesia. A number of other countries have established similar processing zones.
UN Standards and Australian Practice
2.21 The UN standards recommend that countries use the general trade system for the compilation of their international merchandise trade statistics and for international reporting. It considers that the general trade system provides a more comprehensive recording of international trade flows and the broader coverage provides a better approximation of the change of ownership criterion used in the compilation of balance of payments statistics.
2.22 Australia's international merchandise trade statistics are recorded on a general trade basis. Imports on a special trade basis are also available, if statistics are required on imports entering the domestic territory for home consumption. These are called import clearances.