5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2001  
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Contents >> Chapter 4. Classifications >> Country Classifications

Country definition and classification

4.48 International merchandise trade occurs between trading partners. Australia's trading partners are geographic entities with which Australia has the potential to trade in accordance with Customs provisions. IMTS, Rev.2 recommends that the statistical territory of a country, as defined by that country, constitute the basis upon which the trading partners of each country compile their statistics by country.

4.49 As explained in Chapter 2, Australia's statistical territory aligns with its Customs boundary, within which Australian Customs laws apply in full. Most other countries apply the same criteria to define their 'country'.

4.50 The ABS refers to the list of countries recognised by Customs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to classify and disseminate international merchandise trade statistics by country. Where necessary, each country is more clearly defined by using inclusions and exclusions e.g. 'Portugal' includes the Azores and Madeira Islands, while 'China' excludes Special Administration Regions (SARs) and Taiwan.

4.51 Self-governing territories and dependent territories under the administration of other countries may be treated as individual countries in international merchandise trade statistics. In some cases, more than one sovereign state may be grouped together e.g. Australian statistics on its trade with France include trade with Monaco and Andorra.

4.52 ABS international merchandise trade statistics incorporate changes to the political boundaries of countries and changes to official country names once they are recognised by the Australian Government. A list of all countries used for the dissemination of trade statistics at any given time can be obtained from ABS Information Consultancy. A complete list of countries about which statistics may be available, at the time of writing, can be found in Appendix 2.

Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC)

4.53 The Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) 1998 (Cat. no. 1269.0), available within the Statistical Concepts Library on the ABS Website, is the Australian statistical standard for statistics classified by country. The SACC is a four-digit hierarchical classification, essentially based on the concept of geographic proximity. In its main structure, it groups neighbouring countries into progressively broader geographic areas on the basis of their similarity in terms of social, cultural, economic and political characteristics.

4.54 The SACC can be directly concorded to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) country codes. The classification is intended for use whenever social, demographic and labour statistics are classified by country. The SACC, and Customs' list of recognised countries, have been aligned at the most detailed level of disaggregation. While Australia's international merchandise trade statistics are not classified to SACC codes, consistent trade statistics classified by country can be easily produced.

4.55 An example of the hierarchical structure of the SACC is included below.


Major group:1Oceania and Antarctica
Minor group:11Australia (includes External Territories)

Country groups

4.56 A country group can be described as 'a conventional, internationally recognised association or organisation of member countries or economies which serves economic and political purposes'.

4.57 At present, the country groups regularly used for the dissemination of ABS trade statistics include:
  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC);
  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN);
  • European Union (EU); and
  • Developing Countries (DCs).

4.58 The list of countries included in each of these country groups at any given time is included in the latest issue of International Merchandise Trade, Australia (Cat. no. 5422.0) and can be obtained from ABS Information Consultancy. The country groups at the time of writing can be found in Appendix 3 of this publication. Country groups may not be mutually exclusive, e.g. Indonesia is included in the APEC, ASEAN and DCs country groups.

4.59 In ABS publications, country groups reflect the country composition on the last day of the reference period of that publication for all time periods shown in the publication, whenever possible. For example, when the Russian Federation, Viet Nam and Peru were admitted to APEC in November 1998, publications produced from that time onwards included these countries in APEC for all periods before and after they were admitted to APEC. Printed publications produced prior to November 1998 do not include the Russian Federation, Viet Nam and Peru in APEC statistics. Caution should therefore be used when analysing historical country group international merchandise trade data produced at different times.

4.60 In output provided electronically since 1988, country groups reflect the composition of those groups at the time the electronic service is provided, irrespective of individual countries' dates of entry to the group.

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