This publication presents preliminary estimates of Australia's international trade in goods and services on a balance of payments basis (tables 1-11 and 17) and merchandise import and export statistics on an international merchandise trade basis (tables 12-15 and 31-37) and datacubes (tables 18 and 19). In addition, table 16 Exchange rates and trade-weighted indexes (TWI) are derived by using exchange rates and indexes provided by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). As of December 2011 the RBA has changed the methodology for compiling the TWI to include both merchandise and services trade, rather than merchandise trade only. This takes advantage of country-level services trade data that have been published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Merchandise trade statistics on an international merchandise trade basis are compiled from information submitted by exporters and importers or their agents to the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs). Adjustments for coverage, timing and valuation are made to international merchandise trade data to convert them to a balance of payments basis. The services data are sourced from the quarterly Survey of International Trade in Services and a range of administrative data and indicator series.
More comprehensive quarterly estimates of Australia’s trade in goods and services, together with comprehensive details of Australia’s balance of payments are included in the quarterly publication, Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0). Detailed monthly statistics on merchandise trade are available in time series spreadsheets on the ABS website or by subscription to tailored services. More information can be found in the International Trade: Supplementary Information publication which is available on a financial year basis (cat. no. 5368.0.55.003) following the September issue of this publication and calendar year basis (cat. no. 5368.0.55.004) following the March issue of this publication.
Concepts, sources and methods
The conceptual framework used in compiling Australia's merchandise trade statistics can be found in International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5489.0).
The conceptual framework used in compiling Australia's balance of payments statistics is based on the International Monetary Fund's Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, Sixth Edition (BPM6). Descriptions of the underlying concepts and structure of the balance of payments and the sources, methods and terms used in compiling estimates are presented in the publication Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 1998 (cat. no. 5331.0). This version reflects the international standards prior to BPM6 and is currently being revised. The first part of the revised document was released on 8 March 2011, featuring only the Goods Account. Other components will be released as they become available. Further information on the key changes introduced with BPM6 can be found in the Information paper: Implementation of new international statistical standards in the ABS National and International Accounts (cat. no. 5310.0.55.002).
To bring merchandise trade statistics on an international merchandise trade basis to a balance of payments basis, timing adjustments are made to ensure that the transaction is recorded in the period in which ownership changed, rather than in the period in which the transaction was recorded by Home Affairs or the period in which the goods arrived in/departed from an Australian port. Adjustments are also made to account for the change of ownership of goods not included in merchandise trade statistics. Chapter 6 of the Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 1998 (cat. no. 5331.0) provides more detail on the relationship between statistics on an international merchandise trade basis and on a balance of payments basis.
International merchandise trade exports data presented for recent months of this publication are based on information initially reported by exporters to Home Affairs. At the time of initial reporting to Home Affairs the final prices may not be known for some commodities. Therefore, the information recorded for recent months for commodities like iron ore and coal can include a variety of prices including previous or current contract prices and the prevailing spot prices. Newly negotiated contract prices may not be fully reflected in the data first reported to Home Affairs, and to compensate for this, the balance of payments series may reflect adjusted price levels.
The Concepts, Sources and Methods publications and information papers are available to download for free from the ABS website. Select Statistics, select By Catalogue Number, under the heading 5. National Accounts, International Trade and Finance select Balance of payments and international investment, and then the catalogue numbers as above.
The merchandise trade data on an international merchandise trade basis are presented using the following commodity classifications:
- the Harmonized System 2017 (available on request)
- the Standard International Trade Classification Revision 4 (SITC Rev. 4)
- the Classification by Broad Economic Categories (BEC)
- the industry classification: Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, 2006 (ANZSIC 06) from July 2005.
The balance of payments 'goods and services' series are presented according to three classifications with the goods classifications derived from SITC Rev. 4 and BEC. The classifications are:
- the Balance of Payments Commodities for Exports (BoPCE)
- the Balance of Payments Broad Economic Categories (BoPBEC) for Imports
- the Extended Balance of Payments Services Classification (EBOPS).
Accuracy, reliability and revisions
While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of estimates, most series are subject to revision as more complete and accurate information becomes available. Care should be exercised in the use and interpretation of estimates in this publication. The transactions occurring in international trade in goods and services are of many different kinds, and therefore the compilation of trade estimates entails the use of a very wide range of statistical data of varying degrees of accuracy and timeliness. For further information on the monthly services series, see paragraph 25.
The revisions are applied differently for merchandise trade and balance of payments series. Each month, merchandise trade data are revised for the previous six months to incorporate latest available data.
For the balance of payments 'goods and services' series, in original terms, revisions in the July, October, January or April issues are limited to significant new and revised data from survey sources that have become available since the previous issue. This is to ensure the monthly series align with the comparable series in the most recent issue of the Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0). In the September issue revisions can be applied to the four previous financial years. In other issues revisions can be applied to the previous and current financial years to incorporate the latest available survey and administrative data.
In seasonally adjusted and trend terms, revisions may occur at any time point but tend to focus on the most recent estimates. Please also refer to paragraphs 17 and 18 (seasonal adjustment), and 19 (trend estimates) below.
In keeping with BPM6 conventions, balance of payments basis credit entries are shown with an implied positive sign and debit items are shown as negative entries. For statistics on an international merchandise trade basis, both imports and exports are shown without sign. References to balance of payments debit items in Key Figures, Key Points, and Analysis and Comments are made without regard to sign. The calculation of percentage changes on balance of payments debit items are made without regard to sign. Percentage change is not applicable if there is a change from surplus to deficit or vice versa.
Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates
The estimates of international trade in goods and services on a balance of payments basis are seasonally adjusted, however the merchandise exports and imports statistics on an international merchandise trade basis are not. Monthly original estimates are volatile, being subject to calendar-related and large irregular influences. Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing from the original series systematic calendar related effects, such as seasonal (e.g. Christmas), trading day and moving holiday (e.g. Easter) influences. Seasonal adjustment does not aim to remove the irregular or non-seasonal influences which may be present in any particular month. These irregular influences may reflect both random economic events and difficulties of statistical recording.
The seasonally adjusted statistics in this publication use the concurrent seasonal adjustment technique and Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) modelling to estimate factors for the current and previous months. Under concurrent seasonal adjustment, the estimates of seasonal factors are fine tuned as new or revised original estimates become available each period. The seasonally adjusted estimates are subject to revisions at each reference month as the estimates of seasonal factors are improved.
ARIMA modelling relies on the characteristics of the series being analysed to project future period data. ARIMA modelling is used on a case-by-case basis where it results in reduced revisions to seasonally adjusted series when subsequent data becomes available. The projected values are temporary, intermediate values, which are only used internally to improve the estimation of the seasonal factors. The projected data do not affect the original estimates and are discarded at the end of the seasonal adjustment process. The ARIMA model is assessed as part of the annual review of each August issue of this publication with the majority of directly seasonally adjusted trade in goods and services time series using an ARIMA model.
The month-to-month movements of the seasonally adjusted estimates may not be reliable indicators of underlying behaviour because they include irregular or non-seasonal movements. Trend estimates reduce the effect of these movements as they are derived by applying a 13-term Henderson moving average to the seasonally adjusted series. The 13-term Henderson moving average (like all Henderson averages) is symmetric, but as the end of a time series is approached, asymmetric forms of the average are applied. While the asymmetric weights enable trend estimates for recent months to be produced, it does result in revisions to the estimates for the most recent six months as additional observations become available. Revisions to trend estimates can also occur because of revisions to the original data and as a result of the re-estimation of the seasonal factors. Trend estimates should be used with caution, especially around the time of unusual influences, until these have been appropriately taken into account.
Information papers and articles on time series methods are available on the ABS website:
- for seasonal adjustment methods, see Time Series Analysis Frequently Asked Questions (cat. no. 1346.0.55.002)
- for ARIMA modelling, see Feature article: Use of ARIMA modelling to reduce revisions in the October 2004 issue of Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0)
- for trend estimates methods, see Information Paper: A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring Trends (cat. no. 1349.0).
In accordance with BPM6 definitions, Australia's economic territory, on a balance of payments basis, is the area under the effective control of the Australian government. It includes the land area, airspace, territorial waters, including jurisdiction over fishing rights and rights to fuels and minerals. Australian economic territory also includes territorial enclaves in the rest of the world. These are clearly demarcated areas of land, located in other countries and which are owned or rented by the Australian government for diplomatic, military, scientific or other purposes. Specifically, the economic territory of Australia consists of:
- Geographic Australia which includes Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island
- Norfolk Island
- Australian Antarctic Territory
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands
- Territory of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island
- Coral Sea Islands
- Australia's territorial enclaves overseas
Because of administrative complexities and measurement difficulties, Norfolk Island transactions with the rest of the world will not always be captured in all relevant balance of payments statistics. Most of the transactions involving Norfolk Island are not material to Australia's trade performance and not capturing these transactions will not distort these statistics. However, any significant transactions will be identified and included in the relevant statistics.
Commodity breakdown of goods
For details of the classifications used to present goods exports (credits) and imports (debits) on a balance of payments basis, see tables 6.6 and 6.7 in commodity classification of chapter 6, respectively, in Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 1998 (cat. no. 5331.0).
The international merchandise trade statistics shown in tables 12 and 13 are classified by the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC). Imports and exports of goods at a more detailed level are available from the time series spreadsheets on the ABS website. All data from July 2005 are presented according to SITC Rev. 4 and data prior to July 2005 are presented according to SITC Rev. 3. For details refer to the 'Classifications and Standards Update' in the July 2008 issue of this publication.
Monthly services series
Monthly indicators for many of the services components that are only surveyed quarterly are not available. Monthly estimates for the freight and other transportation components of services credits in table 9 are derived by dividing the quarterly estimate by three. Freight debits are derived directly from imports data for the reference month as a difference between total merchandise Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) and Free On Board (FOB), adjusted to reflect timing and processing adjustments. For freight credits and other transportation credits and debits, estimates are derived by extrapolating the last quarter's data by an average of movements for the same quarter over the four previous years, and then dividing the estimate by three. Similarly other services estimates are derived by extrapolating the last quarter's data by an average of movements for the same quarter over the previous four years, and then dividing the estimate by three, noting estimates can be adjusted if additional information is available.
Confidentiality of merchandise trade statistics
The release of statistics for certain merchandise trade commodities is restricted in order to prevent the identification of the activities of an individual business, where this is requested by the business concerned. These restrictions do not affect the total value of exports and imports, but they can affect statistics at the country, state and commodity levels, and other details only available on request such as Australian ports. For information on the confidentiality restrictions applied to the merchandise trade statistics in this publication, refer to the current issue of International Merchandise Trade: Confidential Commodities List (CCL) (cat. no. 5372.0.55.001).
Exports data that have the confidentiality restrictions 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' are now aggregated into a single confidential commodity code. For data prior to June 2013, these data are added back into the appropriate state total and country total (i.e. these totals show the correct level of trade). From June 2013 these confidential data are not added back. Instead the confidential data are published as 'No country details' in the country totals and 'State of origin not available' or 'State not available for publication' in the state totals. Therefore, country and state totals from June 2013 may not represent the actual amount of trade in each country/state but only the trade in commodities without a 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' restriction.
Imports data that have the confidentiality restrictions 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' are aggregated into a single confidential commodity code. For data prior to September 2008, these data are added back into the appropriate state total and country total (i.e. these totals show the correct level of trade). From September 2008 these confidential data are not added back. Instead the confidential data are published as 'No country details' in the country totals and 'State of destination not available' or 'State not available for publication' in the state totals. Therefore, country and state totals from September 2008 may not represent the actual amount of trade in each country/state but only the trade in commodities without a 'No commodity details' or 'No value details' restriction.
Tourism related services
The tourism related services memorandum items provide timely indicators of the movements in tourism related activities, not an absolute measure of the level of these activities. The tourism related indicator has been derived by combining total travel services (business, education-related and other personal travel) and passenger transportation services (which includes agency fees and commissions for air transport).
Services by state and by partner country
Annual services data by state, by country and detailed services are released twice yearly. Refer to Trade in Services data cubes under time series data for details.
Services credits are classified by the state of provision, while services debits are classified by the state of consumption. The state allocations for transportation, travel, postal and courier, and telecommunication services are based on a number of indicators including merchandise trade statistics by state, overseas passenger arrivals and departures by state of clearance and data provided by Home Affairs. The allocation for other services (about 25% of all trade in services) is primarily based on the location of the business reporting the information, which serves as a proxy for the state of provision/consumption of that service. The data should be used with care but are considered suitable for analysis over time.
A comprehensive explanation of the data sources used and the methodology applied in the compilation of partner country statistics is provided in Chapter 17 of Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 1998 (cat. no. 5331.0). Approximately 5% of total services credits and debits are either confidential, or unable to be allocated to individual countries.
ABS data available
Related products and publications
Users may also wish to refer to the following publications which can be downloaded free of charge from the ABS website:
- Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0) - issued quarterly
- Balance of Payments - Goods and Services, Preliminary Quarterly Estimates (cat. no. 5302.0.55.004) - final issue (September quarter 2015)
- International Merchandise Imports, Australia (cat. no. 5439.0) - final issue (December 2015)
- International Trade Price Indexes, Australia (cat. no. 6457.0) - issued quarterly
- Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5331.0)
- Information Paper: Quality of Australian Balance of Payments Statistics (cat. no. 5342.0)
- International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5489.0)
- A Guide to Australian Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Statistics (cat. no. 5362.0.55.001).
Current publications and other products released by the ABS are available on the ABS website. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details products to be released in the week ahead.
Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals. Percentage movements are calculated from data at the level of precision presented in this publication (i.e. $m) except for international merchandise trade tables.