2.37 UN standards recommend that goods be included in international merchandise trade statistics at the time when they enter or leave the country. The change of ownership from non-residents to residents, or vice versa, is largely approximated by the cross-border movement of goods, as most traded commodities are part of normal buying and selling operations between importers and exporters. For customs-based data collection systems, the UN recommends that the time of recording be the date of lodgement of the customs entry, since that provides the best approximation to the time of crossing the border of the country.
2.38 Australia's exported goods are generally recorded at the time of shipment. Imports are recorded when processing of related entries by Customs has been completed. These times are the most practical approximation of the change of ownership that can be achieved. The time of recording of exports and imports is explained more fully in box 2.6.
2.6 TIME OF RECORDING FOR AUSTRALIA'S INTERNATIONAL MERCHANDISE TRADE STATISTICS
- Exports are measured on a date of shipment basis, which reflects the time of the physical movement of the goods out of Australia. The date of shipment is generally not affected by delays in processing entries by Customs;
- all exporters (or their agents) are required to lodge documentation with Customs prior to the departure of the goods, and then shipping companies and airlines are required to confirm the actual departure with manifests; and
- export statistics have been compiled on this basis since the early 1990s, and have been backcast on this basis to July 1981. Prior to that time, exports were recorded in the month during which export entries were processed by Customs. Further details can be found in the article 'Changed Timing Basis for the Compilation of Merchandise Export Statistics' in the June quarter 1992 issue of Cat. no. 5422.0.
- Imports are recorded in the calendar month in which the import entries are finalised by Customs. Normally this is within a few days of discharge of cargo, although, on occasion, import entries may be delayed before being passed to the ABS. For this reason, recorded imports for a particular month may not necessarily represent either entries lodged, or commodities actually imported, during that month; and
- analysis of recorded imports data has shown that, in aggregate, between 85% and 90% of imports by value recorded for a particular month actually arrive during that month; of the balance, the majority have actually arrived during earlier months, with the remainder yet to arrive. For individual commodities, the percentage by value representing actual arrivals in a month can vary considerably. An extreme occurrence was in May 2000 when $315 million worth of recorded petroleum imports had actually arrived in April 2000.