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Topics @ a Glance - Foreign Trade
Using Foreign Trade Statistics

Foreign Trade Glossary
Reference Materials
Different Aggregations of Data

Using Foreign Trade Statistics

The following glossary lists terms used throughout the ABS Foreign Trade Statistics web pages. Other terms relating to foreign trade statistics and statistical collections generally are also included. Click on the hyperlinked terms to be taken to the definition for that term. Clicking on the names of surveys and other data collections will take you to our Directory of Statistical Sources pages.

If the term you are looking for is not listed here, try our Methods, Classifications, Concepts and Standards.

The ABS produces statistics on the value, composition, destination and source of Australia’s merchandise exports and imports. See the Customised Data in the Foreign Trade Releases section for more details.

The ABS applies a range of procedures to ensure the quality of trade data. For a discussion of data quality issues see the Information Paper: International Trade – Ensuring Data Quality, 2008 in the Reference Materials section below.

Foreign Trade Glossary

The glossary lists and explains technical or unfamiliar words used in foreign trade statistics. Reference Materials

The reference materials provide cross reference to other ABS products and services in the context of foreign trade. For more information click on the following links:

One of the classifications used by the ABS for its international merchandise trade statistics is the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, known as the Harmonized System (HS). The HS is an hierarchical classification developed by the World Customs Organization. The latest revision to the HS was implemented on 1 January 2012. Australia has expanded the HS to create the Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) and Combined Australian Customs Tariff Nomenclature and Statistical Classification (Customs Tariff) to provide further commodity detail for its exports and imports. For more information click on the following links:
  • 5489.0 International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods, Chapter 4 – Classifications – An introduction to commodity, industry and country classifications used by the ABS to compile and disseminate international merchandise trade statistics.
  • 5499.0.55.001 Information Paper: International Trade Classification Feasibility Studies, 2001 – This paper provides details on the statistical codes added by the ABS to reflect statistical requirements. Information on how the statistical codes are maintained by the ABS and how to request changes to commodity information are included.
  • 1233.0 Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) – Electronic Publication, Jan 2012

    AHECC, January 2012
    The latest version of AHECC Jan 2012 issue was released on the ABS website on 22 August 2011. Details of changes are included in Table 2. Key of Changes.

    The January 2012 incorporates:
    • A summary table (Table 1) that includes chapter headings, units of quantity and other abbreviations used in the AHECC, currency and country codes.
    • All AHECC Section and Chapter Notes and codes, These are divided into Sections in Tables 2 to 23.
    • Table 24 is the AHECC electronic file which provides the complete AHECC 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 digit codes and descriptors in different columns for use by exporters and agents to upload into their computer system. The Free Standing Descriptors (FSDs) included in this spreadsheet were developed as a guide for statistical clients only and standard classification principles should be applied when classifying goods. This is not a print friendly version and has been zipped due to its size. As well as including FSDs for new codes all FSDs for Chapters 1 to 50, except Chapters 28 and 29 have been revised and these FSDs are included in this table.

    Historical issues of the AHECC
    If you require a copy of the previous AHECC, the January 2007 AHECC version is available in similar format at AHECC Jan 2007. This version should be used for classification of exports departing prior to 1 January 2012.

    Customs Tariff
    The Customs Tariff is available on the Customs and Border Protection Service website <> from the working tariff 2012. Updates to the Customs Tariff by the ABS are generally only made on 1 January and 1 July each year. These updates are advertised on the Foreign Trade Noticeboard.

    Foreign trade statistics are confidentialised to prevent the identification of the activities of individual exporters and importers, where this is requested by the individual or organisation concerned and it is determined that their data would otherwise be identifiable. When analysing trade data it is important to take into account restrictions that apply and how they have changed over time. These restrictions are detailed in the Confidential Commodity List which is updated monthly. For more information click on the following links:
    Different Aggregations of Data

    In some instances, it is possible to release abridged aggregates of confidential data without infringing individuals' or organisations' exercised rights to restrictions. This can be achieved by either aggregating monthly data and presenting it on a quarterly, six monthly or annual basis (time aggregation) or by aggregating data for some agreed commodity codes together.

    Charges involved
    Users of international merchandise trade statistics, who are interested in pursuing the availability of special aggregate data releases for confidential commodities, are required to pay for the cost of the associated investigation, regardless of the outcome. The associated charges vary and depend on the amount of work required to retrieve and check the confidentiality of the aggregate data requested. As an example, aggregate data for three commodities by country and containing details on quantity, free on board value (FOB) and cost of insurance and freight (CIF) over a five year period would attract a charge in excess of $1,000.

    How to obtain further information
    Any request for aggregate data should be addressed to the confidentiality manager, International Trade Section, Australian Bureau of Statistics, PO Box 10, BELCONNEN, ACT 2616. Contact can also be made by telephone: 02 6252 5409, facsimile: 02 6525 8003, or email:

    Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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