Merchandise Imports

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

    International merchandise import statistics measure the quantity, value, origin, etc of goods which are brought into Australia permanently. They provide information about Australia's trading role within the global economy.

    International merchandise import statistics are inputs to major economic statistics such as the Balance of Payments and the National Accounts. They are also used to:

    • monitor the overall level of Australia's reliance on goods of foreign origin;
    • analyse changes in the commodity composition of imports;
    • examine regional trading patterns and directions;
    • formulate and review trade policy;
    • undertake trade negotiations (eg World Trade Organisation (WTO)); and
    • evaluate the domestic market implications of import activity, including opportunities for import replacement.

    The scope of Merchandise imports is that recommended by the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) and covers all moveable goods which add to Australia's stock of material resources, as a result of their movement into Australia. Excluded from the United Nations (UN) scope for merchandise imports statistics are:
    • direct transit trade (ie 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
    • non-merchandise goods, consisting primarily of goods moving on a temporary basis (eg mobile equipment; goods under repair; goods for exhibition; and passengers' effects).

    In Australia, the following goods are excluded from Merchandise imports because Customs and Border Protection entries are not required:
    • parcel post imports of small (not exceeding $1,000) value;
    • from November 2005 other low value imports screened free or entered on informal clearance documents (ICDs), where the value does not exceed $1000. Prior to November 2005 the minimum value was $250;
    • migrants' and passengers' effects;
    • prior to 1 July 1987 imports of aircraft (and spare parts) purchased for use on international routes. From 1 July 1987, purchases of aircraft for use on international routes are included; and
    • bunkers, aviation fuel and stores supplied abroad to Australian ships and aircraft.

    From 1 July 1998, individual import transaction lines (within an import consignment) where the value of the goods is less than $250 are excluded from import statistics. For more details see the June Quarter 1998 issue of International Merchandise Trade, Australia (ABS Cat. no. 5422.0).

    From 1 November 2005, individual import transaction lines (within an import consignment) where the value of the goods is less than $1000 are excluded from import statistics.

    Illegal transactions, such as smuggled goods, are omitted as there is no practical way to collect this information.


    Conceptual framework
    International merchandise import statistics follow the United Nations (UN) recommendations for the compilation of international trade statistics as set out in the UN publication International Merchandise Trade Statistics, Concepts and Definitions, Statistical Papers, Series M, No. 52, Rev 2, 1998 (IMTS, Rev 2).

    Merchandise imports are defined as goods which add to the stock of material resources in Australia as a result of their movement into the country. These include goods brought into Australia directly for home consumption plus goods imported into Customs (bonded) warehouses. Goods are cleared from a bonded warehouse once the duty applicable has been paid.

    Merchandise imports exclude goods imported with the reasonable expectation of re-export within a limited time (eg. goods for temporary exhibition in Australia).

    Further information is available in the International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (ABS. Cat. No 5489.0).

    Main outputs
    The information available for imports and imports cleared for home consumption (import clearances) includes:

    • detailed commodity information;
    • value of goods on a Customs Value, Free-On-Board (FOB) and Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) basis;
    • quantity of goods;
    • gross weight of goods (only available for total imports and only from July 1992 data);
    • overseas country of origin for imports and import clearances;
    • overseas port of loading for imports and import clearances (only available from July 1992 data); and
    • Australian States and ports.

    State of discharge and State of final destination for imports and import clearances:
    • country groups (such as Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the European Union (EU));
    • mode of transport;
    • nature of entry details (imports and import clearances);
    • import duty rates and amount of duty paid on goods cleared for Australian consumption (import clearances); and
    • nature of tariff (import clearances) for import clearances to distinguish between goods entered as normal (N), government (G), reduced (R) and confidential (C).

    The Classifications used to compile and output Merchandise Imports are:
    1. the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System, known as the Harmonized System (HS);
    2. for statistics published from July 2008, the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) Rev4 was used and data on this basis was backcast to July 2005. Publications prior to July 2008 use SITC Rev3;
    3. the Broad Economic Categories (BEC) Classification; and
    4. for statistics published from July 2009, the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) 2006 was used and data on this basis was backcast to July 2005. Publications prior to July 2009 use ANZSIC 1993.

    Other concepts (summary)
    Statistical Month
    Imports are recorded statistically in the calendar month in which the import entries are finalised by Customs.

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory

    Comments and/or Other Regions
    Statistics are compiled for all Australian states and territories as well as for total Australia. Data are cross classified by country of origin for imports.


    Frequency comments
    Data published on 12th working day of each month.

    Before Federation, each Australian state recorded its trade independently and the only available means of ascertaining the total trade of Australia for those years is by aggregating the records of the States. However, figures for commodity data are not available in a viable form before Federation.

    After Federation, and the passing of the Census and Statistics Act, the Statistician was empowered to collect, at least annually, statistics in relation to imports and exports.


    Data availability comments
    Data available:

    • International Merchandise Imports, Australia (ABS. Cat. No. 5439.0) - monthly
    • International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (ABS. Cat. No. 5368.0) - monthly
    • Information Consultancy - Contact 02 6252 5358.

    07/03/2011 01:58 PM