HISTORY OF INTERNATIONAL MERCHANDISE TRADE STATISTICS
1.5 The ABS first published international merchandise trade statistics in 1907 in the publication: Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1906 (cat. no. 5409.0). The annual publication contains 449 pages covering detailed information for the year 1906, and comparative tables for the years 1902-1905. These statistics were compiled from information provided by the DIBP, a source which is still current today. Value (denoted in pounds), quantity, duty rates and duty paid, by commodities traded between Australia and its trading partners were included in the publication.
1.6 In August 1917, monthly statistics relating to Australia's exports and imports were first published. Over the years the statistics were gradually refined with improvements to composition, timeliness and accessibility.
1.7 The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) for classifying export and import commodities was introduced on 1 January 1988. Most of Australia's trading partners introduced the HS at the same time, which was a vital step towards enabling consistent international comparisons of merchandise trade statistics. To ensure its continued relevance the HS is updated every five years. Time series users of detailed commodity data should note that there were changes to the HS 6 digit classification in January 1992, July 1996, January 2002, January 2007 and January 2012.
1.8 From April 1992, exports are recorded on a month of departure basis. To enable a consistent time series this change is backdated to January 1988 with some backcasting to July 1981 for broader aggregates. Prior to this exports were recorded in the month the declarations were processed by the DIBP.
1.9 In December 2005, the Australian Government announced that all statistics on the ABS website could be accessed free of charge as an ABS Centenary tribute to the people of Australia. This includes all post 1998 publications (including copies of some annual historical publications). Access to free statistics for international merchandise trade are available from the 'Statistics' tab on the ABS website.
1.10 For more information about the early history of international merchandise trade statistics see the Feature Article: 100 Years of International Trade Statistics published in the October 2007 issue of International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0).
1.11 For more information about changes which affect time series see Appendix 2 in the 'Downloads' tab.