5368.0.55.020 - Information Paper: Proposed Implementation of the New International Standard for International Merchandise Trade Statistics, 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/08/2013   
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This paper contains information about the purpose of Australia's international merchandise trade statistics and the new international standard which underpins the compilation of the statistics. Some recommendations in the new standard present challenges for Australia. These recommendations and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) position are explained in the context of the purpose of the statistics.

International merchandise trade statistics record goods which add to or subtract from the stock of material resources of Australia by entering (imports) or leaving (exports) its territory. Goods simply transported through Australia (goods in transit), and goods entering or leaving Australia on a temporary basis e.g. for repair or for exhibition, do not add to or subtract from Australia's stock of material resources and are not included in Australia's international merchandise trade.

Australia's international merchandise trade statistics are used extensively by governments, businesses, organisations, researchers and other individuals in Australia and overseas. The way the statistics are used varies from monitoring the value and quantity of particular goods exported from or imported to Australia, to the development of national and international trade policy. The statistics are a key input to Australia's balance of payments, national accounts and producer price indexes but the issues described in this paper do not affect the treatment of these statistics.


The conceptual framework which underpins Australia's international merchandise trade statistics is consistent with the international standard set out in the United Nations (UN) publication International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Concepts and Definitions Series M, No. 52, Rev.2 (IMTS Rev.2). International merchandise trade statistics are an important part of the body of macroeconomic statistics produced by the ABS. The compilation of international merchandise trade statistics is therefore also influenced by the requirements of the international standards adopted for macroeconomic statistics more generally i.e. System of National Accounts, 2008 (2008 SNA) and Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, Sixth Edition (BPM6).

The UN has updated the international standard for compiling international merchandise trade statistics. The new standard, International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Concepts and Definitions 2010 (IMTS 2010) is more consistent with the 2008 SNA and BPM6. Some of the recommendations require additional data which are not available from the export and import declarations supplied to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs and Border Protection) and used by the ABS to compile international merchandise trade statistics.

This paper focusses on the key conceptual changes and new recommendations. Where a new or updated recommendation does not already apply in Australia, the paper presents the ABS position on the appropriateness of the recommendation for Australia's statistics. Feedback is sought on the questions posed or on the ABS position in terms of how the change may affect the usefulness of the statistics.


Australia already adheres to many of the new and updated recommendations included in IMTS 2010 because these changes reflect current patterns of international trade, treatments and practices by countries like Australia. In other situations, while the full application of IMTS 2010 recommendations enables a more coherent view of economic statistics, the ABS proposes not to implement the change as there are negative impacts for the timely release of detailed international merchandise trade statistics. As there will continue to be some key differences between Australia's international merchandise trade statistics and goods on a balance of payment basis, the ABS intends to continue to compile and release statistics on both bases.


Interested parties are invited to make written submissions (preferably via email) to the ABS by no later than 17 September 2013.

Submissions should be sent in PDF or Microsoft Word format. Submissions should be emailed to: international.trade@abs.gov.au (submissions should use the words 'Comments on IMTS 2010 Recommendations' in the title of the email). Please advise if you prefer your submission not to be made publicly available for discussion.

If required, submissions can also be sent by post addressed to:

The Director
International Trade in Goods and Services Section
Australian Bureau of Statistics
GPO Box 66
Hobart TAS 7001

The next stages will depend on the feedback provided in the submissions. If the ABS position is clearly endorsed, an implementation date for the key change i.e. to the treatment of pipelines and undersea communication cables, will be advised to users in the international trade publications (catalogue numbers 5368.0 and 5439.0) planned for released in October 2013. If the ABS position is not endorsed, further discussions with those providing feedback will be held.

The ABS also intends to release an updated version of International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5489.0) by mid 2014.