10.1 Australia's international merchandise trade statistics are important economic statistics which serve a variety of needs. They are extensively used in their own right to measure the value and quantity of Australia's exports and imports of goods, and they are key inputs to the balance of payments, Australian national accounts and producer and international trade price indexes.
10.2 A large number of Australian Government Departments and Authorities and private sector clients use international merchandise trade statistics. Some of these users regularly subscribe to releases of international merchandise trade statistics. The ABS also supplies data to international organisations such as the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
10.3 To assist and encourage informed decision making the ABS provides open access to statistics available from the ABS website. For example, the precise date when the statistics will be released is announced in advance.
10.4 This chapter will describe the dissemination of international merchandise trade statistics. It will detail the release practices used, the revisions policy, the data available free on the ABS website and how it can be accessed, and other ways to access these statistics.
Dissemination policies and practices
10.5 In providing a national statistical service, the ABS is committed to a policy of open access to official statistics by all levels of governments and the community. The ABS dissemination objectives are to achieve widespread dissemination of information, while recovering the costs involved in providing products and services obtained for private benefit. The balancing of community service obligations and cost recovery principles underpins the ABS dissemination and pricing policy.
10.6 To fulfil legislative requirements and enhance community access to statistics, all current and a number of previous ABS publications are available free from the ABS website. In addition, the ABS distributes copies of its printed publications to selected libraries including the National Library of Australia, State libraries and Parliamentary libraries.
10.7 The ABS recovers from users the costs of providing more detailed information than that included free on the ABS website. The price charged covers overheads incurred beyond the costs of collection and production of clean unit record files from which the information is produced. In the case of international merchandise trade statistics, the price charged covers the cost of data storage, extraction, confidentialisation, distribution and marketing. For further information see ABS Pricing Policy.
10.8 Release dates for ABS publications are publicly announced six months in advance in publications and on the ABS release calendar on the ABS website. The statistics are embargoed until 11.30 am Canberra time on the day of their release.
10.9 The ABS releases a monthly publication presenting international merchandise trade statistics:
- International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0), normally released 23 working days after the end of the reference month.
10.10 To assist analysis and data interpretation the ABS also produces:
- International Merchandise Trade: Confidential Commodities List (cat. no. 5372.0.55.001), on a monthly basis
10.11 On rare occasions the normal release dates may change, for example when major changes to systems or classifications are implemented. When this occurs the revised release date is announced well in advance on the ABS website.
10.12 International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0) contains monthly estimates of Australia's international trade in goods and services on a balance of payments basis (including seasonally adjusted data) and merchandise import and export statistics on an international merchandise trade basis classified by commodity, country and state. Once the relevant publications are released, the detailed import and export statistics become available. Products which need to be customised, such as subscriptions and ad hoc data requests, may now be disseminated to clients. This occurs no earlier than 1pm on release days.
10.13 The ABS makes all publications and standard products available free from the ABS website. The release dates and times are also announced in advance and products are released to all users at the same time.
10.14 This policy applies to all ABS data including international merchandise trade statistics.
10.15 Australia's international merchandise trade statistics are subject to revision after they are initially published. Although the revisions made are typically quite small as a proportion of the monthly international merchandise trade results. Revisions may arise because:
- an amending entry is supplied to the Department of Home Affairs
- errors are identified and corrected by the ABS after initial processing
- errors are identified through queries from statistical users about the published data
- time series are recompiled because of major changes to classifications, concepts, sources or methods.
10.16 The previous six months of exports and imports data can be revised. Revisions are usually restricted to the previous six months because:
- analysis shows that revisions for earlier periods are insignificant
- the subscription services are designed to only deliver data for the current month and the previous six months.
Revisions to time series
10.17 The impact of major changes to classifications, concepts, sources or methods are notified in advance of implementation. In most cases these changes will result in revisions to the entire or a significant part of the time series to retain methodological consistency. However, the time series for the HS classification (i.e. the detailed transactions level dataset used to compile international merchandise trade statistics) are not revised when the classification changes. This is due to the frequency of changes, the lack of information available for revising the series and the cost of doing so.
10.18 To assist users in interpreting the time series data available on the ABS website, Appendix 2 (in the Data downloads section) outlines the major changes to international merchandise trade statistics classifications, concepts, sources and methods since January 1988. The impact of changes is managed in one of the following ways:
- break in series - when changes to data are made 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 - a bridging series is included for more significant changes to classifications e.g. the introduction of a SITC revision. A bridging series enables users to see the impact of the new classification for a period of data e.g. six months or one year.
- backcasting - when an entire series of previous published data is revised and put 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.
10.19 Correspondences provide a link between old and new classifications. Users of international merchandise trade statistics should use correspondences to help understand the impact of any classification change. For more details see the Classifications chapter (paragraphs 5.4-5.14).
10.20 The ABS recognises the importance of international merchandise trade statistics to a wide variety of statistical users. Except where data are protected by confidentiality restrictions, aggregated data are made available at a very detailed level. The output dimensions are included in Table 10.1 below. There are other data that can be disseminated on request (for more details see paragraphs 10.34-10.39 in the Customised Data section below) but users should be aware that such requests attract a fee and are considered on a case by case basis which takes into account the quality assurance of the data and confidentiality.
10.21 International merchandise trade statistics are compiled by the ABS on a monthly basis and data can be extracted for any combination or aggregation of months e.g. quarters, six month periods, calendar or financial years. Some time series back to January 1988 and earlier periods are available on the ABS website (also see Appendix 10 in the Data downloads section). Detailed data on microfiche are available from selected libraries including the National Library of Australia, State libraries and Parliamentary libraries. Earlier data (particularly for periods prior to 1988) may not be comparable with current data due to changes in concepts and coverage over time.
10.22 Statistics are available for exports, imports and import clearances:
- Exports reflect goods that leave Australia. They include
- goods that have been produced or manufactured in Australia
- in separately identifiable form, re-exports of imported goods.
- Imports reflect goods that arrive in Australia. They include
- goods brought into Australia directly for home consumption following the payment of duty (Customs Nature 10 entries)
- goods which are entered into Department of Home Affairs (bonded) warehouses (Customs Nature 20 entries).
- Import clearances reflect goods that are cleared into the Australian market for home consumption (following the payment of duty). They include
- goods brought into Australia directly for home consumption (Customs Nature 10 entries)
- goods cleared from a bonded warehouse (Customs Nature 30 entries).
10.23 Users have a choice of several commodity classifications (i.e. HS, SITC, BEC, BoPBEC (for imports) and ANZSIC (the industry most likely to have produced the goods)) when specifying their data requirements. A detailed description of these classifications is provided in the Classifications chapter. The choice of classification depends on several factors including:
- whether data are required for exports and / or imports
- the level of detail required i.e. data may be required for the total trade in alcohol, or something more specific, such as imports of vodka
- whether only value of trade, or both value and quantity data, are required. Quantity information for SITC and broad level HS items is not standard in output as it is not always meaningful. However, it can be made available on request.
|Dimensions of output data||Description|
|For exports, imports and import clearances|
|Commodity||for classifications listed in paragraph 10.23 of this publication, information at various levels of detail|
|Quantity of goods||the quantity of goods in a unit specific to the commodity, see Table 8.2 in the Quantity Measurement chapter of this publication|
|Country groups||Australia's trade with selected country groups such as ASEAN, OECD and the European Union, see Appendix 9 in the Data downloads section of this publication. Only the latest country composition can be disseminated for any time period|
|Commodity groups||Australia's trade in commodities grouped in response to specific client needs|
|Mode of transport||identifies how goods were transported to or from Australia, see the Mode of Transport chapter of this publication|
|Value of goods||free on board value (FOB)|
|Gross weight of goods||the shipping weight of goods (measured in kilograms) excluding the weight of shipping containers|
|Overseas country||country of final destination and country of port of discharge, see Appendix 8 in the Data downloads section of this publication|
|Overseas port||port of discharge, see Appendix 8 in the Data downloads section of this publication|
|Australian state||state of origin and state of loading, see Table 6.3 of the Country, Overseas Port, State and Australian Port chapter of this publication|
|Australian port||port of loading, see Appendix 8 in the Data downloads section of this publication|
|Value of goods||customs value (this is the value included in international merchandise trade statistics unless a client specifically requests the FOB or CIF value), for more details see paragraph 3.18 in the Trade System, Valuation and Time of Recording chapter of this publication|
free on board value
cost, insurance and freight value
|Gross weight of goods||the shipping weight of goods (measured in kilograms) excluding the weight of shipping containers. This can be obtained by Australian and/or overseas port, by mode of transport, and at total level (available at commodity levels but not advised to be used)|
|Overseas country||country of origin and country of port of loading, see Appendix 8 in the Data downloads section of this publication|
|Overseas port||port of loading, see Appendix 8 in the Data downloads section of this publication|
|Australian state||state of discharge and state of final destination, see Table 6.3 of the Country, Overseas Port, State and Australian Port chapter of this publication|
|Australian port||port of discharge, see Appendix 8 in the Data downloads section of this publication|
|For import clearances|
|Value of goods||customs value|
|Overseas country||country of origin, see Appendix 8 in the Data downloads section of this publication|
|Australian state||state of final destination|
amount of duty paid, a calculated rate of duty (using the duty paid as a proportion of the customs value) and the following fields indicating whether special duty rates have been claimed:
treatment code is used to indicate special treatment of a transaction by the Department of Home Affairs (usually involving a concessional rate of duty), generally in accordance with Schedule 4 of the Customs Tariff and Nominal Reference Numbers. A list of treatment codes used for ABS statistical output are provided in Appendix 11 in the Data downloads section of this publication. Users should be aware that this list is the ABS interpretation of the detailed information provided in Schedule 4 of the Customs Tariff;
preference code is used to indicate whether a preferential rate of duty applies to the import of certain goods from a particular country, such as when there is a Free Trade Agreement. A list of the codes is included in Appendix 11 in the Data downloads section of this publication;
10.24 International merchandise trade statistics are published monthly in:
- International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0), which presents monthly estimates of Australia's international trade in goods and services on a balance of payments basis (including seasonally adjusted data) and merchandise import and export statistics on an international merchandise trade basis. International merchandise trade data are adjusted for coverage and timing differences to put them on a balance of payments basis. In this publication, merchandise imports and exports are provided at the one and two digit SITC level with selected commodities at the three digit level. Once this publication is released detailed exports information can be disseminated to users. For analysis including graphs see "Analysis and Comments".
10.25 This publications is available electronically on the ABS website together with Excel time series data and data cubes. The spreadsheets contain a variety of commodity data including import and/or export totals by country or state. All the time series, can be downloaded free of charge. A list of the international merchandise trade time series available on the ABS website is provided in Appendix 10 (in the Data downloads section). Also included with the publications are analysis and explanatory information about the statistics.
10.26 In addition to International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0), the ABS also produces:
- Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) - Electronic Publication (cat. no. 1233.0) which is used in the preparation of export documentation and in the compilation of Australian export statistics
- International Merchandise Trade: Confidential Commodities List (cat. no. 5372.0.55.001) which is a monthly publication that contains a list of all import and export commodities which have been subject to confidentiality restrictions since January 1988 (for more details see paragraphs 9.30-9.33 in the Data Confidentiality chapter) (cat. no. 5368.0.55.006) which is an annual publication that provides analysis of the number and characteristics of Australia's exporters.
10.27 Appendix 10 (in the Data downloads section) also lists the international merchandise trade discontinued publications (by catalogue number) available on the ABS website and a description of the types of tables included. The tables are only available as part of the PDF publication.
Other related outputs
10.28 Some historical broad level international merchandise trade statistics, commentary and conceptual information are also included in the Year Book Australia (cat. no. 1301.0), available on the ABS website.
10.29 The way data is disseminated in the ABS is currently undergoing change. ABS.Stat is a free web tool that presents ABS statistics in a searchable, flexible and dynamic way. It increases the usability of ABS data by providing a versatile interface and integration of data across a range of aggregated ABS statistics. Currently ABS international merchandise trade statistics are available on the website as static Excel spreadsheets and PDF file downloads. In contrast, ABS.Stat provides a dynamic and direct method of accessing ABS data through the use of dynamic tables and intuitive search functionality. ABS.Stat also provides web services in Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) format for automated machine-to-machine data exchange.
10.30 At the time of writing, ABS.Stat is publicly released as a beta version with a limited range of ABS statistics. It is available on the ABS BetaWorks website. This tool is continually being improved so interested users should refer to the ABS website for further developments.
10.31 Users sometimes require more detailed information than that disseminated on the ABS website. Where data are not available at the required level of detail, information consultancy can provide customised data on a fee-for-service basis. Subscriptions take the form of regularly delivered reports. Users can also request one-off (ad hoc) statistical reports. These reports are accompanied by supporting information to assist in interpreting the data. For more information see Information Consultancy Services.
10.32 Information is available on a monthly, quarterly, six-monthly or annual basis and can be supplied on a range of media or via email. At any point in time, the latest version of the data are included in subscriptions.
10.33 Users can submit data requests via the online Information Consultancy Form or contact the National Information Referral Service on 1300135070 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Trade in Goods and Services Section
10.34 In addition, the ABS' International Trade in Goods and Services Section can sometimes disseminate more detailed data on a fee-for-service basis as special reports. For example, data that is subject to confidentiality restrictions can sometimes be provided on a more aggregated basis resulting in reduced confidentiality. For more information, see the Data Confidentiality chapter (paragraphs 9.50-9.52).
Other sources if information
10.35 A great deal of international merchandise trade statistics are also available from international organisations. Australia, like other countries who are also members of the international statistical community supply trade statistics to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These statistics are particularly useful when conducting country comparisons as all are on a single currency (normally US dollar) basis. Interested users should visit these organisations' websites for further information.