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5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2001  
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Contents >> Chapter 2. Conceptual Framework >> International Merchandise Trade

2.1 Australia's international merchandise trade statistics record goods which add to or subtract from the stock of material resources of Australia by entering (imports) or leaving (exports) its territory. Goods simply transported through Australia (goods in transit), or temporarily admitted or withdrawn, do not add to or subtract from Australia's stock of material resources and are not included in Australia's international merchandise trade statistics.

2.2 In principle, the term 'merchandise' is not limited to goods which are the subject of a commercial transaction, e.g. a change of ownership, but is intended to cover all goods which meet the above definition. In practice, however, coverage is limited to those goods which pass the Customs frontier and for which Customs clearances are required.

2.3 In certain instances, the above definition is not sufficient to provide a clear answer on the issue of inclusion or exclusion of particular types of goods, due either to the peculiarity of such goods, or the complexity of the transaction. The IMTS, Rev.2 provides guidelines for the treatment of these cases.

2.4 Special cases of goods which are included in Australia's international merchandise trade statistics are recorded in box 2.1. Further explanation of some of these cases is provided in Chapter 3.

2.1 GOODS INCLUDED IN AUSTRALIA'S INTERNATIONAL MERCHANDISE TRADE STATISTICS
  • non-monetary gold. Non-monetary gold refers to gold that is traded like any other commodity. It includes unrefined gold, gold powder, semi-processed, other unwrought or semi-manufactured gold, coins, bullion and bars. Such gold might be for industrial use, jewellery making, or use as a store of value. These articles are regarded as commodities, rather than as financial items, as they principally derive their worth from either their gold content or their value as collectors' pieces;
  • unissued banknotes and securities, and coins not in circulation. These are regarded as commodities rather than financial items, and valued at their production cost not face value;
  • goods traded on government account. This includes goods for both civilian and military use, which cross customs' borders as a result of, for instance, regular commercial transactions of Governments, goods supplied under foreign aid programs and war reparations and restitutions;
  • food and other humanitarian aid. Articles of food, clothing, medicine and other goods entering or leaving a country under aid programs or as emergency assistance, whether provided by Governments, international organisations or non-government organisations;
  • goods for military use. Australia includes military goods in its international merchandise trade statistics, provided the goods cross the Customs frontier, are not used by Australian forces serving abroad, or are excluded under an inter-governmental agreement;
  • goods acquired by all travellers, including non-resident workers, where amounts or values of such goods exceed legal requirements as defined by Australian law for reporting to Customs;
  • goods on consignment. This includes artwork that has a high probability of being purchased by Australian residents or sold to non-residents at auction after being imported or exported respectively;
  • goods used as carriers of information and software for general or commercial use (not to order). This is explained further in paragraphs 3.67 to 3.71;
  • goods for processing. This term is defined in paragraph 3.11;
  • goods which cross borders as a result of transactions between parent corporations and their direct investment enterprises (affiliates / branches). These are capital equipment and other goods provided by foreign multinational companies to their Australian subsidiaries or Australian companies to their foreign subsidiaries;
  • returned goods. If previously exported merchandise is subsequently returned to Australia, the inward transaction should be recorded as a merchandise import at the time the good is returned. Similarly, where merchandise previously treated as imported into Australia is subsequently returned overseas, the outward transaction should be recorded as a merchandise export. This treatment maintains the equilibrium between the incoming and outgoing transaction, albeit increasing the overall volume of both merchandise exports and imports;
  • electricity, gas and water;
  • goods under financial lease. Goods are considered to be under financial lease if the lessee assumes the rights, risks, rewards and responsibilities in relation to the goods, and from an economic point of view can be considered as the de facto owner;
  • ships, aircraft and other mobile equipment, except temporary imports;
  • goods delivered to, or dispatched from, offshore installations located in Australia's economic territory (from, or to, the economic territory of another country). For example, Australia's oil exports from the North West Shelf are generally exported directly from the offshore facility but documents are lodged at the nearest Customs office in Western Australia;
  • bunkers, stores, ballast and dunnage that are supplied to foreign vessels or aircraft in Australia; and
  • waste and scrap, such as metal or other materials to be recycled or otherwise disposed, provided it has a positive value and is not temporary trade.

2.5 Special cases of goods which are excluded from Australia's international merchandise trade statistics are recorded in box 2.2. Further explanation of some of these cases is provided in Chapter 3. Some of these goods are separately recorded for balance of payments and national accounts purposes.
2.2 GOODS EXCLUDED FROM AUSTRALIA'S INTERNATIONAL MERCHANDISE TRADE STATISTICS
  • monetary gold is gold that is exchanged between national or international monetary authorities or authorised banks. These authorities include the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and other central banks, which hold gold as part of an economy's official reserves (a financial asset). Exchanges of monetary gold between monetary authorities are treated as financial transactions. When the RBA sells or lends gold to non-monetary authorities, which may then be exported, it is said to demonetise the gold, turning it into non-monetary gold. Any export of non-monetary gold is recorded in international merchandise trade statistics. Likewise, when the RBA receives gold from abroad (e.g. the repayment of a gold loan) it is said to monetise the gold, turning it into monetary gold. Any import of the gold prior to monetisation is recorded in international merchandise trade statistics.
  • issued banknotes and securities and coins flowing into and out of the Australian economy as a result of payments and receipts involved with international transactions. These are treated as financial items as they represent a financial claim;
  • goods temporarily admitted or dispatched. Goods are sometimes brought into a country, or dispatched from it, with a reasonable expectation of subsequent withdrawal or return within a limited time without any change (except normal depreciation). These include art exhibitions, specialised equipment employed in particular projects, vehicles, horses and other belongings of competitors who participate in sporting events, and animals for breeding;
  • goods for repair. This comprises goods temporarily crossing international borders so they can be repaired i.e. activity that reinstates the quality of impaired goods and does not result in the creation of a new product. It includes goods that must be fixed abroad as Australian resources are unsuitable, or goods brought to Australia for repair. Customs entries for goods for repair are collected and recorded separately for balance of payments and national accounts purposes. Construction repairs, computer repairs, and maintenance performed in seaports and airports on transportation equipment, are treated as services in balance of payments statistics;
  • goods in transit (entrepôt or transhipment trade). Goods entering or leaving a country with the sole purpose of reaching a third country are excluded, since they do not add to or subtract from the stock of material resources of the country through which they pass. Goods leaving a country, to return after crossing another country, are excluded from both countries' imports and exports. International transportation routes are such that goods may be transported via one or more countries on their way to or from Australia. Alternatively, goods may transit Australia on their way elsewhere;
  • goods consigned to and from territorial enclaves. The economic territory of Australia includes Australian embassies, military bases and other installations that are physically located within the geographic boundaries of other countries, and excludes the enclaves of other nations and international organisations located within Australia's geographic boundaries. The movement of goods between Australia and Australian enclaves abroad is considered an internal flow, and therefore excluded from international merchandise trade statistics;
  • illegal and smuggled goods, such as drugs. Those that are detected by authorities are usually destroyed;
  • non-financial assets, ownership of which has been transferred from residents to non-residents, without crossing borders. These assets include land, structures, equipment and inventories. Such a transfer of ownership of non-financial assets is considered to be a financial operation. Transactions include the sale of Australian embassies by the Commonwealth Government;
  • goods under operational lease. This category comprises goods shipped under operational, that is non-financial, leasing arrangements. It may include particular ships or aircraft depending on individual circumstances;
  • goods lost or destroyed after leaving the economic territory of the exporting country, but before entering the economic territory of the intended importing country, are excluded from imports of the intended importing country (although they are included as exports of the exporting country). Loss or destruction during transit may be sustained as a result of misadventure, inclement weather, rough handling, or theft. Products with a limited shelf life may simply perish;
  • fish caught on the high seas by Australian registered vessels and landed in Australian ports. These goods are not recorded in Australia's international merchandise trade statistics as they are considered to be of Australian origin. Measurement is also made difficult as Customs entries are not required;
  • fish catch, minerals from the seabed and salvage landed by Australian vessels in foreign ports or acquired by foreign vessels on the high seas from Australian vessels. These goods are not recorded in Australia's international merchandise trade statistics as there are no data sources available. An example is fish caught in Australian waters and shipped directly to Japan; and
  • bunkers, stores, ballast and dunnage that are acquired by Australian vessels or aircraft, outside Australia.

2.6 Despite the conceptual differences between goods and services, the boundary is sometimes blurred. Items classified as goods may include some service element, and vice versa. For example, personal goods acquired by travellers are included in travel services in the balance of payments, while the value of transportation services to the border of the exporting country is included in the value of goods exported. Movable goods treated as services, in accordance with the international statistical standards, are shown in box 2.3. Some of these goods are separately recorded for balance of payments and national accounts purposes.
2.3 MOVABLE GOODS INCLUDED IN SERVICES RATHER THAN INTERNATIONAL MERCHANDISE TRADE
  • diskettes or CD-ROMs with stored computer software and / or data developed to order; and audio and video tapes containing original recordings and customised blueprints and the like. These goods are included in computer and information services in the balance of payments because their value is in the creative content, not the physical good used as the storage medium;
  • goods acquired by non-residents for their own use while travelling, working or studying in Australia and by residents while travelling, working or studying abroad not exceeding amounts established by Australian law. These goods are included in travel services in the balance of payments;
  • goods purchased in Australia by foreign governments for their own use in Australia and equivalent expenditure abroad by Australian governments. These goods are included in government services in the balance of payments;
  • goods purchased in Australia by foreign government employees and their dependants while stationed in Australia and goods purchased abroad by Australian government employees and their dependants while stationed abroad. These goods are included in government services in the balance of payments;
  • newspapers and periodicals sent under direct subscription. These goods, which come through the post or via couriers, are included in computer and information services in the balance of payments;
  • goods that do not cross frontiers and are acquired and relinquished within the same recording period. These goods are included in other business services in the balance of payments;
  • goods acquired abroad by an Australian construction enterprise for the purpose of providing on site construction services, or acquired from abroad or in Australia by a foreign construction enterprise for the purpose of providing on site construction services in Australia. These goods are included in other business services in the balance of payments; and
  • a service transaction which includes goods incidental to the main transaction. For example, a business consultancy which includes the consultant providing low value items such as pens, coffee mugs or computer mouse mats advertising their services. These goods are included in other business services in the balance of payments.

2.7 UN recommendations for the compilation of international merchandise trade statistics recognise that customs records, the basic data source used by most countries, will not be able to capture all transactions. Some goods normally falling within the scope of international merchandise trade statistics are nevertheless excluded from Australia's statistics because customs entries are not required. These exclusions are listed below and are additional to those listed in boxes 2.2 and 2.3.

2.8 For exports:
  • personal or household effects of migrants, other passengers and crew of an aircraft or ship;
  • parcel post exports for values not exceeding $2,000;
  • sales of aircraft (and parts and components) which were previously imported into Australia prior to 1 July 1987 for use on overseas routes; and
  • from 1 July 1986, individual transaction lines (within an export consignment) where the value is less than $500.

2.9 For imports:
  • personal or household effects of migrants, other passengers and crew of an aircraft or ship;
  • parcel post imports for values not exceeding $1,000;
  • bunkers, aviation fuel and stores supplied abroad to Australian ships and aircraft;
  • prior to July 1987, the arrival of certain ships and aircraft (and parts and components) intended for use on overseas routes; and
  • consignments screened free or entered on informal clearance documents (ICDs) where the value is less than $250. Since 1 July 1998, individual import transaction lines (within a formally entered import consignment) where the value of the goods is less than $250 have also been excluded from import statistics.


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