5439.0 - International Merchandise Imports, Australia, Jan 2011 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/02/2011   
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International merchandise import statistics are produced using administrative by-product information from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Typically, administrative data is collected for reasons other than statistical analysis, such as administration and enforcement of government policy. Imports data are collected under the Customs Act 1901 with importers having a legal obligation to provide documentation to Customs. The Customs Administration Act 1985 allows Customs to pass this data to the ABS for statistical purposes.

For further information on the institutional environment of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of its operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


In this publication, monthly merchandise imports statistics are based on transactions that are finalised by Customs within a calendar month. The statistics reflect goods that add to the stock of material/resources of Australia by crossing the Customs frontier on a permanent basis. Low value records (less than $1000) are excluded. This publication also provides preliminary estimates of imports on a balance of payments (change of ownership) basis.

Australia conforms broadly to 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 Rev2)'.

The Harmonised System 2007 is the primary international classification used to classify goods as they cross the Customs frontier. Data are also compiled according to the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) and to the Australian Balance of Payments Broad Economic Classification (BOPBEC). Data are available by country of origin and by State of final destination (approximated by where goods leave Customs control). Available at the same time as this publication are imports data on: other valuations (free on board and cost, insurance and freight), quantity and gross weight. Further breakdowns are also available such as: mode of transport, overseas port and Australian port. Imports data on a clearance basis are also available providing data on import duty and information around duty rates such as preference code and treatment code. More detail can be found on the underlying concepts and structure of international trade in goods, and the sources, methods and terms used in compiling estimates in International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5489.0).


The International merchandise imports publication is normally released 13 working days after the end of each reference month, with all detailed data available at that time. The statistics are derived from records finalised by Customs during the reference month. Amendments to records in the previous six months are incorporated into previously released data.

The date of finalisation of a Customs record is an approximation of when goods actually cross the border. In most months 90% - 92% of the value recorded for the month arrived in that month, with 4% - 5% recorded as arriving in the previous month and another 4% - 5% recorded to arrive in the following month.


International merchandise import statistics are compiled from documents supplied to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs). Customs do not require lodgements for imports below a dollar threshold. All imports below this threshold are excluded from merchandise trade statistics. These excluded lodgements number more than those used to produce the import statistics but in value terms are less than 1% of the import statistics. At present the threshold value for customs lodgements is $1000.

Due to the number of import lodgements, data used to compile these statistics are mostly as they are reported to Customs. The ABS uses a significance approach to detect reporting errors and identify goods that should be excluded from merchandise trade statistics (eg. temporary imports). This approach focusses on quality assuring the data for macroeconomic statistics purposes. Information on the checks made on international trade data during compilation are outlined in the information paper International Trade - Ensuring Data Quality, 2008 (cat. no. 5498.0.55.001). Also the financial press is regularly monitored for supporting information on large international transactions and trends.


Data in this publication are primarily available aggregated to the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) for comparison at the international level. There is a break in a number of series between June and July 2005 when revision 4 of the classification was introduced. A change in scope also occurred between October and November 2005 when the threshold for low value records excluded from the statistics rose from $250 to $1000.

Imports data has been collected for over 100 years and is available on the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) classification basis since 1988. Major international changes at the 6-digit level have been incorporated at appropriate times (mostly at 5 yearly intervals) and other changes, pertinent only to Australia, at the lower 8 and 10 digit levels have been incorporated as necessary to suit legislative and statistical requirements. Correspondences are available for changes occurring to the HS and with other commodity classifications (e.g. SITC, Broad Economic Classification (BEC) and Australia and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC06)).

Care should be taken when comparing data over time and with other countries as confidentiality restrictions on some of the lower level data can change the availability of data at any point. A full list of commodities subject to restrictions, the type of restriction applied and the time period of any restriction are published each month in International Merchandise Trade: Confidential Commodities List (cat. no. 5372.0.55.001) along with a list of changes made for that month. A greater understanding of the confidentiality restrictions applied can be gained from the Information Paper: International Merchandise Trade Statistics, Australia: Data Confidentiality (cat. no. 5487.0).


International merchandise trade statistics are compiled on a recorded trade basis. However the data are closely linked to the Balance of Payments which provide original, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates for goods debits (imports) on a change of ownership basis in the publication International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0) on a monthly basis.

The 'Notes' and 'Analysis and Comments' of this publication provide advice on any changes which may be occurring. Also, if major changes are anticipated to any of the classifications, information papers associated with the publication are released in advance to advise the change and implementation plans. The International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5489.0) gives a good description of the scope, methods and concepts underpinning the international merchandise trade statistics.


A range of highly aggregated data series are available in data cubes from this web publication and can be downloaded free of charge. Value data by Broad Economic Category (BEC) and by industry of origin through the Australia and New Zealand Standard Industry Classification are available as time series in the less timely International Trade in Goods and Services (cat. no. 5368.0) monthly publication. More detailed data are available on request as a 'user pays' service which can be tailored to suit individual requirements. This service can be accessed through the ABS information and referral service on 1300 135 070 or go to the Information Consultancy link on the ABS website.