5422.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Mar 2003  
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1 This publication contains quarterly statistics of Australia’s merchandise trade with its major trading partners and selected country groups.

2 The merchandise export and import statistics in this publication are compiled in broad agreement with the United Nations’ recommendations for the compilation of international trade statistics. The paragraphs below briefly describe the concepts and methods used in their compilation. More detailed information on methods used in compiling data can be found in International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (Cat. no. 5489.0). This publication can be accessed on this site, see Statistics; Statistical Concepts Library; ABS concepts, sources, methods and statistical framework; 5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, CSM.


3 The basic source of balance of payments data on goods exports and imports is ‘international merchandise trade statistics’. However, because of conceptual differences, various coverage, timing and (imports only) valuation adjustments are necessary before international trade statistics can be put on a balance of payments basis. For more information on the relationship between international merchandise trade statistics and balance of payments statistics on merchandise trade see Chapter 6 of Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (Cat. no. 5331.0).


4 International merchandise trade statistics are compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics from information submitted by exporters and importers or their agents to the Australian Customs Service (Customs).


5 Merchandise trade covers all movable goods which add to (imports) or subtract from (exports) the stock of material resources in Australia.

Excluded are:

  • 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 non-merchandise goods, consisting primarily of goods moving on a temporary basis (e.g. mobile equipment; goods under repair; goods for exhibition; and passengers’ effects).


6 The United Nations’ recommendations for the compilation of merchandise trade statistics recognise that the basic source used by most compiling countries-the customs record-will not be able to capture certain transactions. In Australia the following types of goods which fall within the scope of merchandise trade, are excluded because customs entries are not required:
  • migrants’ and passengers’ effects exported or imported; and
  • parcel post exports for values not exceeding $2,000 and parcel post imports for values not exceeding $1,000.

For exports only:
  • fish and other sea products landed abroad directly from the high seas by Australian ships; and
  • individual transaction lines (within an export consignment) where the value of the goods is less than $500.

For imports only:
  • bunkers, aviation fuel and stores supplied abroad to Australian ships and aircraft; and
  • from July 1998 individual transaction lines (within a formally entered import consignment) where the value of goods is less than $250 are not processed by ABS and are excluded from import statistics.

In addition, although merchandise trade statistics should include illegal transactions, such as smuggled goods, these transactions are omitted as there is no practical way to collect this information.


7 The merchandise trade statistics in this publication are recorded on a general trade basis, i.e. exports include both Australian produce and re-exports, and imports comprise goods entered directly for home consumption together with goods imported into bonded warehouses.

8 Australian produce is defined as goods, materials or articles which have been produced or manufactured in Australia. Processing and assembly operations that leave imported components and products essentially unchanged are not considered as production or manufacture.

9 Re-exports are defined as goods, materials or articles originally imported into Australia which are exported in the same condition or after undergoing minor operations (e.g. blending, packaging, bottling, cleaning, husking and shelling) which leave them essentially unchanged. Information on re-exports is shown in table 25.


10 Exports are recorded in the calendar month in which the goods departed from Australia.

11 Imports are generally recorded statistically in the calendar month in which the import entries are finalised by the Customs. Import entries may be lodged early and finalised prior to arrival, or their finalisation may be delayed because of the various validation checks carried out by Customs. Currently, approximately 85% of total import trade by value shown for a particular month reflects shipments which arrived in that month, while approximately 10% reflects shipments which arrived during the previous month with the remaining 5% by value arriving in earlier or later months. For individual commodities these percentages may vary considerably.

12 Occasionally significant delays occur in the lodgement, rather than processing, of import entries. In rare circumstances, and only when the affected entries are for significant values, they are recorded statistically in the month that they should have been lodged and finalised.


13 The value of exports is the free on board (f.o.b.) transactions value of the goods expressed in Australian dollars. Goods shipped on consignment are initially valued at the f.o.b. Australian port of shipment equivalent of the current price offering for similar goods of Australian origin in the principal markets of the country to which the goods are despatched for sale. Exporters who do not know the value of the goods at shipment, and enter an approximate value, must subsequently submit an entry either confirming or revising the estimated return.

14 The value of imports is the Australian Customs Value. Goods are valued at the point of containerisation (in most cases) or the port of shipment, or at the customs frontier of the exporting country, whichever comes first.


15 For the purposes of international merchandise trade statistics, a country is defined as a geographical entity which trades, or has the potential to trade, with Australia in accordance with Customs provisions.

16 For exports, ‘country’ refers to the country to which the goods were consigned at the time of export. Where the country of consignment is not known at the time of export, and where it is impossible to determine the destination, goods are recorded as ‘Destination Unknown’. Tables 7 and 33 which show exports by country also include the item ‘‘Ship and aircraft stores’’. ‘‘Ship and aircraft stores’’ comprise fuel, food and other goods loaded onto foreign owned vessels and aircraft to be consumed during international journeys.

17 For imports, ‘country’ refers to the country of origin of the goods, which is defined as the country of production for Customs purposes. Where the country of origin is not known at the time of import and where it is impossible to determine the origin, goods are recorded as ‘Origin Unknown’. Goods reported with country of origin ‘Australia’ (i.e. goods of Australian origin exported and subsequently re-imported) are shown as country ‘Australia (Re-imports)’ and are included in the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation country group.

18 Wherever possible, statistics for countries and country groups for all time periods included in this publication reflect the composition of those countries and country groups on the last day of the reference period of this publication. Thus, after the German Democratic Republic and the German Federal Republic were reunited, statistics for all periods both before and after re-unification refer to the combined entity (called Germany in country classified statistics).

19 However, in the case of a country that breaks into a number of component entities, it is not possible to provide data for earlier periods for the new entities. For example, from October 1991, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are each separately identified in the statistics, but for earlier periods trade data for these three republics are included indistinguishably in data for the USSR.

20 The country groups shown in this publication are selected economic groups with which Australia trades, namely: Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC); Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN); Developing Countries (DCs); European Union (EU).

21 A list of the countries included in each of the above groups is shown in the Appendix. Country groups may not be mutually exclusive e.g. Indonesia is included in APEC, ASEAN and as a Developing Country. The countries that belong to more than one group are identified with a footnote in the Appendix.

22 More details on the composition of countries identified in these statistics are available from the Classification Manager on Canberra 02 6252 5409.


23 Commodity export and import statistics in tables 9 to 24 of this publication are presented according to the codes and descriptions of the third revision of the United Nations’ Standard International Trade Classification (SITC Rev3) which came into effect in January 1988. The ABS has added dummy codes to take account of Australia’s treatment of gold coin, whether or not legal tender, and other legal tender coin and confidential items.


24 State information for exports presented in table 25 refers to the State in which the final stage of production or manufacture occurs.

25 State information for imports presented in table 26 refers to the State where imported goods were released from Customs control, also called the State of final destination. The State of final destination is not necessarily the State in which the port of discharge of the goods is located. Goods can be forwarded interstate after discharge either under Customs control or not, but are recorded as being imported into the State where they are released by Customs.


26 Export and import statistics classified by subdivisions of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) are shown in tables 27 and 28. The statistics are compiled by allocating statistical items of the Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) and the Harmonized Customs Tariff to the ANZSIC industry of origin based upon the primary activities of those industries with which the commodities are primarily associated. A full description of ANZSIC classes is contained in the publication Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 1993 Edition (Cat. no. 1292.0).


27 Merchandise trade in tables 29 and 30 are classified according to the categories of the United Nations’ Classification By Broad Economic Categories (BEC). The BEC classifies international merchandise trade statistics for the purposes of general economic analysis according to the main end use of the commodities traded. The statistics are compiled by allocating the statistical items of the AHECC and the Harmonized Customs Tariff to the appropriate BEC.


28 Restrictions are placed on the release of statistics for certain commodities for reasons of confidentiality. These restr
ictions do not affect total export and import figures, but they can affect statistics at all levels in country and commodity tables. For information on the confidentiality restrictions and their impact upon the statistics in this publication, analysts should refer to the feature article on Data Confidentiality in the December 1999 issue.

29 More information on the treatment of confidential data in international merchandise trade statistics can be obtained from Information Paper: International Merchandise Trade Statistics, Australia: Data Confidentiality (Cat. no. 5487.0), or the Confidentiality Manager on Canberra 02 6252 5409. Copies of the current Confidential Commodities List (CCL), can be obtained from the Confidentiality Manager or from this site, see Publications, 54 International Trade, 5487.0 - Information Paper: Appendix B: Confidential Commodities List and Explanatory notes.


30 Statistics for recent periods should be considered preliminary. Revisions to previously published data frequently occur due to continuing data quality checks.


31 Other ABS publications which may be of interest include:
  • International Merchandise Imports, Australia (Cat. no. 5439.0)-issued monthly
  • International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (Cat. no. 5489.0)-irregular issue
  • International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (Cat. no. 5368.0)-issued monthly
  • Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (Cat. no. 5302.0)-issued quarterly
  • Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (Cat. no. 5331.0)-irregular issue
  • International Trade Price Indexes, Australia (Cat. no. 6457.0)-issued quarterly

32 In addition, current statistics on international merchandise trade are contained in the Year Book Australia (Cat. no. 1301.0), the Pocket Year Book Australia (Cat. no. 1302.0) and the Australian Economic Indicators (Cat. no. 1350.0).

33 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed in the Catalogue of Publications and Products, Australia (cat. no. 1101.0). The Catalogue is available from any ABS office or the ABS web site. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which details products to be released in the week ahead.


34 ABS consultants develop tailored information solutions in response to individual client need. These may take the form of statistical reports provided on a 'one-off' basis, or delivered regularly on a subscription basis. All such reports are accompanied by supporting information to assist in interpreting the data. Statistics on Australia's exports and imports are available through consultancy services operating in each ABS Office. Contact telephone and facsimile numbers are provided on the back cover of this publication.


35 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.


36 The following symbols and abbreviations are used in this publication:

- nil or rounded to zero
n.e.c.not elsewhere classified
n.e.s.not elsewhere specified
. .not applicable