Australia's international merchandise trade statistics, relating to the exports and imports of goods, are compiled in broad agreement with the United Nations' (UN) recommendations for the compilation of international trade statistics. More information on the concepts, sources and methods used to produce Australia's trade statistics is included in International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (5489.0).
The UN recommendations state that merchandise trade covers all movable goods which add to (imports) or subtract from (exports) the stock of material resources of a country as a result of their movement into or out of the country.
The UN definition excludes:
- direct transit trade, i.e. goods being trans-shipped or moved through Australia for purposes of transport only;
- ships and aircraft moving through Australia while engaged in the transport of passengers or goods between Australia and other countries; and
International merchandise trade statistics are compiled by the ABS from information submitted by exporters and importers or their agents to the Australian Customs Service.
The UN recommendations for the compilation of merchandise trade statistics recognise that the basic sources used by most compiling countries - customs records - will not be able to capture certain transactions. In Australia, the following types of goods, which fall within the scope of the UN definition of merchandise trade, are excluded because customs entries are not required:
- non-merchandise trade, consisting primarily of goods moving on a temporary basis (e.g. mobile equipment, goods under repair and goods for exhibition).
- parcel post exports for values not exceeding $2,000 and parcel post imports for values not exceeding $1,000; and
For exports only, other types of goods excluded are:
- migrants' and passengers' effects exported or imported.
- fish and other sea products landed abroad directly from the high seas by Australian ships; and
For imports only, other types of goods excluded are:
- individual transaction lines (within an export consignment) where the value of the goods is less than $500.
- bunkers, aviation fuel and stores supplied abroad to Australian ships and aircraft; and
- consignments screened free or entered on informal clearance documents for values not exceeding $250. From July 1998 individual transactions lines (within a formally entered import consignment), where the value of goods is less than $250, are not processed by the ABS and are also excluded.