5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2015  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/11/2015   
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Ad valorem rate of duty

A rate of import duty calculated as a percentage of the customs value of the goods, e.g. 4%.

Australian Business Number (ABN)

An ABN is an 11 digit number that identifies a business, registered under the A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 in its dealings with the Australian Taxation Office and other government departments and agencies.


Backcasting is the term used to describe the process of revising an entire series of previously published data to put it on the new basis as a result of a significant methodological or conceptual change, e.g. the introduction of the HS and the change to the timing basis for exports.

Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, Sixth Edition (BPM6)

This is the current international standard followed by Australia for the compilation of balance of payments statistics.

Balance of payments basis

Balance of payments basis refers to the adjustment of Australia's export and import statistics on an international merchandise trade basis to a change of ownership basis for the balance of payments. There are 3 types of adjustments.

  • timing adjustments (to ensure that the transactions are recorded in the period in which ownership changed, rather than in the period in which the transactions were finalised by the DIBP (imports) or the period in which the goods departed from Australia (exports))
  • coverage adjustments to include goods which changed ownership but did not enter or leave Australia's international merchandise trade statistical territory and to remove goods which did not involve a change of ownership between a resident and a non-resident
  • valuation adjustments are made when the international merchandise trade value is found to be incorrectly estimated or reported.

See also International merchandise trade basis.

Balance of Payments Broad Economic Classification (BoPBEC)

A more detailed classification of the BEC which is used to disseminate Australia's imports and import clearances for balance of payments purposes.


Heavy material (including sand, water) carried by vessels or aircraft for ensuring proper stability during international journeys.


Bias is a measure of the extent to which initial estimates are lower or higher on average than the final estimate.

Break in series

A break in series occurs when changes to concepts, sources, methods or classifications are applied to the data from a point in time. A break in series is used for relatively minor changes or when there are no comparable data on both the new and old bases, e.g. changes to the HS classification.

Bridging series

Where there is no data to backcast an entire series, a bridging series may be created so that users are able to see the impact of changes. International merchandise trade have created a bridging series for significant changes to classifications, e.g. the introduction of a SITC revision. A bridging series will normally show the data on both the old and new bases for a period of time, e.g. 6-12 months.

Broad Economic Categories (BEC)

A 3 digit classification, which groups commodities according to their main end-use, i.e. consumption, capital and intermediate goods. It was introduced by the United Nations in 1970 and is suitable for general economic analysis of international merchandise trade statistics.


Fuel and other petroleum products loaded aboard a vessel for consumption by that vessel.

Change of ownership

Change of ownership is the change of economic ownership as defined in the 2008 SNA and BPM6. When this principle is applied to the recording of transactions in goods it refers to the change in economic ownership of products from one unit to another and the timing is considered to occur when the 'parties enter the goods in their books and make a corresponding change to their financial assets and liabilities' (2008 SNA paragraphs 2.46-2.49, BPM6 paragraphs 3.44-3.45). The 2008 SNA and BPM6 apply the criterion of change of economic ownership to all national and international transactions.

Concessional goods

These are goods on which a lower than normal rate of duty is levied by the DIBP as a result of the import's country of origin, tariff concession or by-law. For more information see the Working Tariff.

Confirming export arrangements (confirming exporter status)

Export details must be provided to the DIBP prior to exportation. Some exporters do not have accurate value, weight or quantity information until after the goods have been loaded onto the ship or aircraft for export. Such exporters may be accorded Confirming Exporter Status by the DIBP. This status gives the exporter the authority to amend the details of their declarations within a set time after the export of the goods.


The Customs Act 1901, defines 'a consignee as the ultimate recipient of the goods that have been sent from outside Australia whether or not the person ordered or paid for the goods'. More detailed information is available in ACN 2009/47 - Definition of 'consignor' and 'consignee' and Compliance Approach for the purposes of reporting cargo, available in the Australian Customs Notices page of the DIBP website.


A consignment comprises goods shipped from one consignor to one consignee as a single consignment. The goods in a single consignment are generally transported from/to Australia on the same ship or aircraft. The goods may or may not arrive as a single package and at the same time, but must be part of the same order. More information is available in the Defining 'Consignment ' for the purposes of Section 68 of the Customs Act 1901 Report, which is available the Practice statements - Border - Trade page of the DIBP website.


The Customs Act 1901, defines 'a consignor as a supplier of goods who is located outside of Australia and who either initiates the sending of goods to a person in Australia, or complies with a request from a person in Australia to send goods to the person'. More detailed information is available in ACN 2009/47 - Definition of 'consignor' and 'consignee' and Compliance Approach for the purposes of reporting cargo, available in the Australian Customs Notices page of the DIBP website.


Correspondences describes the relationship between different classifications or different versions of the same classification.

Cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value

The CIF point of valuation for imports, is the point when the goods arrive at the border of the importing country. The CIF value of imports includes the cost of goods at the point of export and the international insurance and transport costs associated with the delivery of the goods from the place of export to the border of the importing country.

Country group

A country group can be described as a conventional, internationally recognised association or organisation of member countries, or economies, which serves economic and political purposes. Some examples of country groups which are used to present international merchandise trade statistics include APEC, ASEAN and OECD.

Country of consignment

The country of consignment (in the case of imports) is the country from which goods were dispatched to the importing country, without any commercial transactions or other operations that change the legal status of the goods taking place in any intermediate country. The country of consignment (in the case of exports) is the country to which goods are dispatched by the exporting country, without - as far as it is known at the time of exportation - being subject to any commercial transactions or other operations that change the legal status of the goods taking place in any intermediate country. More information is available in the IMTS Methodology Page of the United Nations Statistics Division website.

Country of final destination

For exports, this is the last country, as far as it is known at the time of exportation, to which goods are to be delivered.

Country of origin

For imports and import clearances, the country of origin is the country of production, or the country in which the final stage of production or manufacture occurs.

Customs frontier/border

The limit of customs' jurisdiction.

Customs Valuation

Customs value is the value of an import as determined by the DIBP. As explained in the DIBP Valuation of Imported Goods publication (available on the DIBP website), customs value (which in Australia's case is a FOB type valuation) does not include the international freight and international insurance costs involved in transporting the goods from the place of export. However, any inland freight and inland insurance costs incurred by the purchaser before the goods leave the place of export are included in the customs value.

Customs warehouse (customs free zones)

A part of a country's territory where any goods introduced, from a customs import duty or tax perspective, are outside the customs territory. In Australia, these warehouses are places that are licensed under Section 79 of the Customs Act 1901 to use for warehousing goods. Formerly known as bonded warehouses, these warehouses store goods on which duty and GST liabilities remain unpaid until the goods are cleared from the warehouse and delivered for home consumption. More information is available in page 12 of the DIBP Import Declaration Guide on the DIBP website.


Export and import declarations are usually electronic documents submitted by the owner of the goods (or their agent) to the DIBP for the purpose of clearing the goods from customs control. Each declaration consists of a header section (which contains information about the entire consignment, e.g. the owner details, value of the consignment, country and port information) and a line section. There are often multiple lines in the line section covering the different goods included in a single consignment. Each line will include the commodity code, description of the goods, line value and line quantity.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)

A statutory body that derives its authority principally from the Australian Constitution, which provides for the levying of customs duties and for laws with respect to trade and commerce. The constitutional authority of the DIBP is given expression through the Customs Act 1901, the Customs Tariff Act 1995 and related legislation.

Departure date

For exports, the date of departure of the ship or aircraft from an Australian port.


Dispersion is a measure of the 'spread' between the initial and final estimates and indicates the magnitude of revisions.

Domestic goods

Goods wholly produced, manufactured or substantially transformed in Australia.


A term used to describe the process whereby the products of one country are exported to another country at prices less than their normal value. The effect of dumping is offset by instituting anti-dumping measures.

Dumping duty

Dumping duty is an additional import duty imposed to offset the effect of dumping which has been found to materially injure an Australian industry. The duty may be the full margin between the normal import value and overseas export price, or maybe a lesser amount which removes injury to the Australian industry.


Material laid beneath or between cargo and other parts of vessels or aircraft to prevent damage.


The total amount of duty paid (in Australian dollars) in respect to imported goods. It reflects the rate of duty appropriate to those goods (as outlined in the Customs Tariff). Duty may be calculated at an ad valorem or fixed rate, or a combination of both. It excludes payment of GST or excise. From November 2005 dumping duty is not included.

Economic territory

The area under the effective economic control of a single government. The economic territory of a country has dimensions which cover both physical location and legal jurisdiction.

Edit value threshold

Edit value thresholds are set each month by the ABS to manage processing schedules and to allow editing effort to be concentrated upon higher value transactions. There are 2 edit threshold values for imports and exports. The first edit threshold applies a value threshold (generally $500,000 to $1 million) to records which meet certain editing criteria, e.g. for certain commodities. The second edit threshold is another warning edit which is applied to all transactions with a value equal or over the threshold set (can vary but generally in the range of $3 million to $5 million).

Export permit

An export permit is required for certain types of goods including live animals, vegetables and fruit. Such goods are prohibited from exportation until an export permit is obtained from the appropriate agency, e.g. the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.


Goods which subtract from the stock of material resources in Australia, as a result of their movement out of the country. Goods exported with the reasonable expectation of re-import within a limited time are excluded from international merchandise exports. Included in exports are goods which are produced or manufactured in Australia as well as foreign manufactured goods which were previously imported into Australia, see also Re-exports.

Fatal, warning and informative edits

The export and import edit processes check the details of each transaction against a set of edit conditions which are categorised as fatal, warning (notifiable) or informative. Transactions which fail fatal or warning edits then have messages sent to the edit/amendment system for investigation by an ABS editor. Informative edits usually indicate an automated system adjustment has been applied. Transactions which fail informative edits are not viewed by an ABS editor unless they also contain a fatal or warning edit.

Financial assets

Financial assets are mostly financial claims. Financial claims entitle the owner to receive a payment, or a series of payments, from an institutional unit to which the owner has provided funds. Shares are treated as financial assets even though the financial claim their holders have on the corporation is not a fixed or predetermined monetary amount. Monetary gold does not involve a financial claim but it is also a financial asset because it can be used for international payment and it is recognised as a store of value in reserve assets.

Fixed rate of duty

A rate of import duty calculated as a monetary value applicable to each item, e.g. $1.50 per item.

Foreign goods

Goods which are wholly produced or substantially transformed in foreign countries.

Free on board (FOB) value

The value of goods on a FOB basis includes all production and other costs incurred up until the goods are placed on board the international carrier for export. Free on board values exclude international insurance and transport costs. They include the value of the outside packaging in which the product is wrapped, but do not include the value of the international freight containers used for transporting the goods.


The 2008 SNA defines goods as 'physical, produced objects for which a demand exists, over which ownership rights can be established and whose ownership can be transferred from one institutional unit to another by engaging in transactions on markets' (2008 SNA, paragraph 6.15).

Gross weight

Gross weight is the shipping weight of goods (measured in kilograms) in the packaged state, excluding the weight of shipping containers.

Goods and services tax (GST) (imports only)

GST is a broad-based tax levied on most supplies of goods and services consumed in Australia. The DIBP are responsible for collecting GST from importers on goods when imported. Importers receive an input tax credit for goods imported for the purpose of their business.

Import clearances

Goods that are cleared into the Australian market for home consumption. They include:
  • goods brought into Australia directly for home consumption following the payment of duty, if applicable
  • goods cleared from a customs (bonded) warehouse following payment of any duty.


Goods that arrive in the country and include:
  • goods brought into Australia directly for home consumption following the payment of any duty
  • goods which enter the country but are not cleared for home consumption; the goods instead go into customs (bonded) warehouses and duty is not paid at that time.

They exclude goods imported with the reasonable expectation of re-export within a limited time.

IMTS 2010 recommendations and encouragement

IMTS 2010 (available on the IMTS Methodology Page of the United Nations Statistics Division website) contains a number of new or updated recommendations or encouragements. Paragraph 0.20 explains that 'the term "recommended" refers to a standard with which countries should comply, while the term "encouraged" indicates a desirable practice that is not part of the standard'.

Indirect trade

Goods exported to an intermediate country from where the goods are then re-exported to another country (unknown to the original exporter) for final consumption.

International merchandise trade

Goods which add to, or subtract from, the stock of material resources of a country by entering (imports) or leaving (exports) its economic territory. More information available in paragraph 2 of IMTS 2010, available from the IMTS Methodology Page of the United Nations Statistics Division website.

International merchandise trade basis

International merchandise trade basis refers to the conceptual basis which underlies the compilation of export and import statistics in Australia. The conceptual basis is as defined in this publication. See also Balance of payments basis.

International merchandise trade production system

The international merchandise trade production system refers to the ABS computing environment (both hardware and software) in which export and import data are processed. The production system is separate from the test environment. The test environment is used to test changes to data format, computer code, management reports, screen presentation etc. prior to any change being incorporated into the production system.

International merchandise trade record

An international merchandise trade record is a set of information provided to the DIBP about goods for export or import. For exports a record can be either a declaration or a manifest. When exporters/importers/agents amend the details of a customs declaration a new version of the record is sent to the ABS and processed as a complete replacement of the previously received record.

International merchandise trade transaction

An international merchandise trade transaction is an export/import of a set of goods with the same commodity classification in the one consignment. In the international merchandise trade system a transaction is identified by the combination of:
  • an Export Declaration Number (EDN) and line number (export transaction)
  • an Import Declaration Number (IDN) and line number (import transaction).

International non-merchandise trade

Goods which cross the customs frontier, but do not change the country's stock of material resources. These are:
  • goods temporarily admitted or dispatched, e.g. goods for art or other exhibitions, animals for breeding, show or racing, transportation containers or equipment
  • goods which temporarily cross the customs frontier for repair or maintenance abroad.

Statistics about Australia's international non-merchandise trade are not included on the ABS website but can be obtained by contacting the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or email client.services@abs.gov.au.

Invoice currency

The currency in which an invoice for the exported or imported goods is denominated. Conversion of a foreign invoice currency value to Australian dollars is undertaken by the DIBP (for imports), or by the ABS, or in a small number of cases the trader (for exports), using exchange rates applicable at the time of import or export. Australia's international merchandise statistics are presented in Australian dollars, unless specified elsewhere.

Kyoto Convention

Signed at Kyoto in 1973, and entered into force in 1974, this is an international convention which simplified and harmonised customs procedure.

Macroeconomic statistics

Statistics which relate to the entire economy or economies. Australia's macroeconomic statistics include the national accounts, input-output tables, balance of payments, government finance statistics, price indexes and labour force statistics.


A manifest is a statement made by the master or owner of a ship, the pilot or owner of an aircraft, or their agent, to the DIBP. The manifest contains information about the cargo on board the ship or the aircraft.


BPM6 defines merchanting as 'the purchase of goods by a resident (of the compiling economy) from a non-resident combined with the subsequent resale of the same goods to another non-resident without the goods being present in the compiling economy'.


Metadata is the information that defines and describes data. It is often referred to as 'data about data' or 'information about data' because it provides statistical users with explanatory material, e.g. data definitions which enables the statistics to be understood and interpreted.

Monetary gold

Gold held by monetary authorities, such as the Reserve Bank of Australia, and other central banks as part of an economy's official reserves.

National accounts

National accounts are a systematic summary of national economic activity. The Australian system of national accounts includes national income, expenditure and product accounts, financial accounts, the national balance sheet and input-output product tables. For more details see Topics @ a Glance - National Accounts.

Nature of entry

DIBP record import transactions according to whether the goods cross the customs frontier and are entered directly into the market for home consumption (Nature 10), are diverted into a customs warehouse (Nature 20), or are released from a customs warehouse into the marketplace (Nature 30).

Non-financial assets

Tangible and intangible assets that are not financial assets.


A non-resident is defined in the 2008 SNA as 'a unit that is a resident of other economies' (2008 SNA, paragraph 2.20). See below for definition of a Resident.

Overseas port of discharge

Overseas port of discharge is the place where goods are unloaded from an aircraft or ship after leaving Australia.

Overseas port of loading

Overseas port of loading is the place where goods are loaded onto an aircraft or ship for the purpose of being transported to Australia.

Partner country

For exports, this is the country of final destination. For imports and import clearances, this is the country of origin.

Price indexes

Price indexes measure the movements in various categories of prices over time.


A quantity measurement is available for many commodities. The quantity is reported in the unit as specified at the most detailed commodity level (i.e. 8 digit AHECC and 10 digit HTISC). The unit of quantity can be a weight, volume, length measurement etc., however this is sometimes not reported because of the diversity or variation in size of the items covered by the commodity code, e.g. parts. Where the unit of quantity is a weight it is the net weight excluding any packaging, inner containers or wrappings, or any carrying medium (including liquid).


Import quotas provide importers with an entitlement to import limited quantities of particular goods at concessional or normal rates of duty during a specific quota period.


Goods originally imported into Australia which are exported in either the same condition in which they were imported, or after undergoing some minor operations (e.g. blending, packaging, bottling, cleaning and sorting) which leave them essentially unchanged. Re-exports are included in international merchandise export statistics.


Goods originally exported which are imported in either the same condition in which they were exported or after undergoing repair or minor alterations (e.g. blending, packaging, bottling, cleaning and sorting) which leave them essentially unchanged. Re-imports are included in international merchandise import statistics.


A resident is defined in terms of 2008 SNA where 'an institutional unit is said to be a resident unit of a country when it has a centre of predominant economic interest in the economic territory of that country; that is when it engages for an extended period (one year or more being taken as a practical guideline) in economic activities on this territory' (2008 SNA, paragraphs 2.19-2.20).

Ship and aircraft stores

Bunkers (fuel), food and other goods loaded onto foreign vessels and aircraft to be consumed during international journeys.

State of discharge

State of discharge is the Australian state/territory in which imported goods are unloaded from the international carrier. It is derived from the reported Australian port of discharge. International merchandise trade statistics by state of discharge can only be obtained by aggregating data for all ports within a state.

State of final destination

State of final destination is the Australian state/territory in which the imported goods are released from customs control. It does not necessarily equate to the state in which goods were discharged or the state in which they were consumed.

State of loading

State of loading is the Australian state/territory in which the goods are loaded onto an international carrier for export. It is derived from the reported Australian port of loading. International merchandise trade statistics by state of loading can only be obtained by aggregating data for all ports within a state.

State of origin

State of origin is the Australian state/territory in which the final stage of production or manufacture occurs. It does not necessarily equate to the state in which goods were loaded onto the international carrier.

Statistical territory

The statistical territory of a country is the territory with respect to which international merchandise trade data are being compiled.

System of National Accounts, 2008 (2008 SNA)

The current international standard followed by Australia for the compilation of national accounts statistics.


A tax which is usually imposed on the importation of goods. The Working Tariff is an online version of the Combined Australian Customs Tariff Nomenclature and Statistical Classification which is the official list of imports subject to tariffs imposed by the Australian Government and collected by the DIBP.

Temporary trade

Temporary trade refers to goods that enter or leave Australia on a temporary basis, during which time the nature of the commodity remains unchanged.

Time series

A time series is a collection of observations of well-defined data items obtained through repeated measurements over time.


The transfer of goods without payment of duty from an importing vessel or aircraft to another vessel or aircraft, for the purpose of international transport. The goods are not being re-traded but are simply moving through the country en-route between trading partners. More information is available in Annex B.22 of IMTS 2010, available from the IMTS Methodology Page of the United Nations Statistics Division website)

Unit value

The unit value of a commodity for any given period is the total value of shipments divided by the corresponding total quantity.