Merchandise Exports

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

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

    International merchandise export 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 production which is consumed overseas;
    • analyse changes in the commodity composition of exports;
    • examine regional trading patterns and directions;
    • formulate and review trade policy;
    • undertake trade negotiations with a view to developing or expanding markets for domestically produced goods; and,
    • evaluate the domestic market implications of export activity, including opportunities for expanded production for export markets.

    Merchandise exports implements the scope recommended by the United Nations Statistical Division. It covers all moveable goods which subtract from Australia's stock of material resources, as a result of their movement out of Australia. Excluded from the UN scope for merchandise exports 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; and goods for exhibition).
    Because the source of merchandise export statistics - the Australian Customs Service records - do not capture all transactions which are in scope, some types of goods are excluded because Customs entries are not required. In Australia, the following good are excluded from Merchandise Exports because Customs entries are not required:
    • parcel post exports of small (not exceeding $2,000) value ;
    • from 1 July 2002 low value exports where the consignment is less than $2000. Prior to 1 July 2002 other low value exports where the goods on an individual transaction line are valued at less than $500. Prior to 1 July 1986, the value level was $250;
    • migrants' and passengers' effects;
    • sales of aircraft which were imported into Australia prior to 1 July 1987 for use on overseas routes (sales of aircraft imported after 1 July 1987 for use on overseas routes are included);
    • fish and other sea products landed abroad directly from the high seas by Australian ships;
    • military goods of any value that are the property of the Australian Government, for use overseas by Australian Defence Forces; and
    • Australian domestic cargo containers for the international carriage of cargo and ships stores

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


    Conceptual framework
    International merchandise export 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, Rev2).
    Merchandise exports are defined as goods which subtract from the stock of material resources in Australia as a result of their movement out of the country. These include goods that have been produced or manufactured in Australia, and re-exports of imported goods (where the goods depart in essentially the same condition as when they were imported).

    Merchandise exports exclude goods exported with the reasonable expectation of re-import within a limited time (eg. goods exported for repair and return). Exports of goods which were imported with the reasonable expectation of re-export within a limited time (and were therefore excluded from merchandise imports) are also excluded.

    Main outputs
    The information available for exports includes:

    • detailed commodity information;
    • value of goods on a free on board (fob) basis;
    • quantity of goods;
    • gross weight of goods;
    • overseas country of final destination;
    • overseas port of discharge (only available from July 92 data);
    • State (and port) of loading and State of origin;
    • country groups (such as Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the European Union (EU); and
    • mode of transport.

    The classifications used to compile and output merchandise exports are:
    1. the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System, known as the Harmonized System (HS)
    2. the Standard International Trade Classification Revision 3 (SITC Rev3) was used up to and including the publication of June 2008 statistics. For July 2008 statistics, the SITC Rev4 was introduced and applies to data from July 2005
    3. the Classification by Broad Economic Categories (BEC)
    4. the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) applies to data up to and including June 2009. From July 2009 onward the ANZSIC 2006 version applies.

    Other concepts (summary)
    Time of recording

    From January 1988, exports are recorded statistically in the calendar month in which the goods departed from Australia. Prior to January 1988, exports are recorded in the month in which the entries were processed by the Australian Customs Service (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 by Australian port of loading is also available. Statistics are cross classified by country of destination.


    Frequency comments

    Before Federation, each 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, with the passing of the Census and Statistics Act, the Statistician was empowered to collect at least annually, statistics on exports.


    Data availability comments
    Data available:

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

    03/03/2011 01:39 PM