International trade in goods (ext_go)

Reference Metadata in Euro SDMX Metadata Structure (ESMS)

Compiling agency: Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union


Eurostat metadata
Reference metadata
1. Contact
2. Metadata update
3. Statistical presentation
4. Unit of measure
5. Reference Period
6. Institutional Mandate
7. Confidentiality
8. Release policy
9. Frequency of dissemination
10. Accessibility and clarity
11. Quality management
12. Relevance
13. Accuracy
14. Timeliness and punctuality
15. Coherence and comparability
16. Cost and Burden
17. Data revision
18. Statistical processing
19. Comment
Related Metadata
Annexes (including footnotes)
National metadata



For any question on data and metadata, please contact: EUROPEAN STATISTICAL DATA SUPPORT

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1. Contact Top
1.1. Contact organisation

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

1.2. Contact organisation unit

G5 - Goods: production and international trade

1.5. Contact mail address

2920 Luxembourg LUXEMBOURG


2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 03/10/2016
2.2. Metadata last posted 30/09/2010
2.3. Metadata last update 03/10/2016


3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

International trade in goods statistics are an important data source for many public and private sector decision-makers at international, European Union and national level. For example, at the European Union level, international trade data are extensively used for multilateral and bilateral negotiations within the framework of the common commercial policy, to define and implement anti-dumping policy, to evaluate the progress of the Single Market and many other policies. Moreover, they constitute an essential source for the compilation of balance of payments statistics and national accounts.

International trade in goods statistics cover both extra- and intra-EU trade: Extra-EU trade statistics cover the trading of goods between Member States and a non-member countries. Intra-EU trade statistics cover the trading of goods between Member States. "Goods" means all movable property including electricity. Detailed and aggregated data are published for the Euro area, the European Union and for each Member State separately.

Main components: Data record the monthly trade between Member States in terms of arrivals and dispatches of goods as well as the monthly trade in terms of imports and exports between Member States and non-member countries. However, in publications only the term “exports” for all outward flows and “imports” for all inward flows are applied for both intra-EU trade and extra-EU trade. Extra-EU trade imports and exports are recorded in the Member State where the goods are placed under the customs procedures. Extra-EU trade statistics do not record goods in transit, goods placed into customs warehouses or goods for temporary admission.

Data sources: The statistical information is mainly provided by the traders on the basis of Customs (extra-EU) and Intrastat (intra-EU) declarations. Data are collected by the competent national authorities of the Member States and compiled according to a harmonised methodology established by EU regulations before transmission to Eurostat.

Classification systems:

- Product classification: For detailed data, products are disseminated according to the Combined Nomenclature (CN8), which first six digit codes coincide with the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS), products are disseminated as well according to the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) and the Broad Economic Categories (BEC).

- Country classification: The Geonomenclature is used for classifying reporting countries and trading partners.

Nomenclatures and correspondence tables are available at the Eurostat’s classification server RAMON.

The following basic information is provided by Eurostat:

- reporting country,

- reference period,

- trade flow,

- product,

- trading partner

- mode of transport.

Detailed data are disseminated according to the Combined Nomenclature (HS2, HS4, HS6 and CN8 levels) for the following indicators:

- trade value (in Euro),

- trade quantity in 100 kg,

- trade quantity in supplementary units (published for some goods according to the Combined Nomenclature).

Aggregated data cover both short and long term indicators.

Short term indicators are disseminated according to major SITC and BEC groups for the following indicators:

- gross and seasonally adjusted trade value (in million Euro),

- unit-value indices,

- gross and seasonally adjusted volume indices,

- growth rates of trade values and indices.

Long term indicators are disseminated according to major SITC groups for the following indicators:

- trade value (in billion Euro),

- shares of Member States in EU and world trade,

- shares of main trading partners in EU trade,

- volume indices.

Adjustments are applied by the Member States to compensate the impact of exemption thresholds, which release the information providers from statistical formalities, as well as, to take into account the late or not response of the providers. In addition, Eurostat applies seasonal adjustments to aggregated time series.

3.2. Classification system

Within international trade in goods statistics standardised classifications are applied to data on commodities and on countries. Regarding the product classification the Combined Nomenclature (CN) is applied for the detailed data whereas the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) or the Broad Economic Categories (BEC) is used for aggregated data. The Geonomenclature is classifying the countries for international trade purposes.

The nomenclature of products which are disseminated is in accordance with the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) 2, 4, 6 digit level and the detailed level (8 digits) of the Combined Nomenclature (CN8). The CN is subject to annual revisions that ensure that the CN is kept up to date in the light of changes in technology or in patterns in international trade.

Country and goods classifications include specific codes for example confidentiality and adjustment purposes. Nomenclatures and correspondence tables are available at the Eurostat's classification server RAMON.

Combined Nomenclature (CN) - Harmonised System (HS)

For extra- and intra-EU trade purposes goods are classified according to the Combined Nomenclature in the European Union. This classification is based on the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) managed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO). The HS uses a six digit numerical code for the coding of products and the Combined Nomenclature is further breaking down the coding into a eighth digit level according to EU needs.

The CN is extended with some alphanumeric codes that are used to identify confidential or adjusted data and trade for which a breakdown of the results at a detailed level of product classification is not possible.

Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)

International trade in goods statistics publish figures according to the Standard International Trade Classification of the United Nations. At present the fourth revised version of the SITC is applied which has a five-level hierarchical structure with purely numerical coding. The SITC enables to make comparisons on a worldwide basis.

Broad Economic Categories (BEC)

The Broad Economic Categories of the United Nations arranges international trade data into end-use categories that are meaningful within the framework of the System of National Accounts (SNA), namely categories approximating the three basic classes of goods in the SNA: capital, intermediate and consumer goods. The BEC includes nineteen basic categories. The basic categories are those that are not further sub-divided in the classification. Each category of the BEC is defined in terms of divisions, groups, subgroups and basic headings of the SITC.

Geonomenclature

International trade in goods statistics classifies the reporting country and the partner country according to the nomenclature of countries and territories for the external trade statistics of the Community and statistics of trade between Member States - known as the "Geonomenclature" and managed by Eurostat. An ISO alpha-2 codes are applied, which means that each country is identified with a two-letter alphabetical code. The Geonomenclature is subject to revisions in order to take into account any geopolitical changes.

3.3. Coverage - sector

The aim of international trade statistics as stated in the UN 2010 manual is ‘to record all goods which add to or subtract from the stock of material resources of a country by entering (imports) or leaving (exports) its economic territory’. At EU level, the ‘economic territory’ is the statistical territory of a Member State, which corresponds to its customs territory with one exception - the statistical territory but not the customs territory of Germany includes Heligoland.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

Long term indicators (disseminated according to major SITC groups) include annual data such as:

  • Trade value (in billion euro),
  • shares by reporting country or by main trading partners,
  • unit-value and volume indices,
  • volume ratios and terms of trade.

Short term indicators (disseminated according to major SITC and BEC groups) include monthly data such as:

  • Gross and seasonally adjusted trade value (in million euro),
  • unit-value indices,
  • gross and seasonally adjusted volume indices,
  • growth rates of trade values and indices.

For detailed data the following indicators, both on a monthly and annual basis, are disseminated:

  • trade value (gross value in euro),
  • trade quantity in 100 kg,
  • trade quantity in supplementary units, for example, litres or square metres (published for some goods according to the Combined Nomenclature).
3.5. Statistical unit

Any natural and legal person lodging a customs declaration in a Member State is reporting to the extra-EU trade statistics on the condition that the customs procedure is of statistical relevance.

Within intra-EU trade statistics any taxable person carrying out an intra-EU trade transaction is responsible for providing the information. 

However small and medium trade operators are exempted from obligation to provide Intrastat declarations. Member States have implemented a threshold system which allows intra-EU traders not to report on their transaction or provide less detailed information on condition that their total trade value does not exceed a certain amount during the previous or present calendar year. However, Member States assure quality standards when determining the national thresholds.

3.6. Statistical population

Trade in goods of the EU and its Member States includes all goods which add or subtract from the stock of material resources of the reporting Member State by entering (imports) or leaving (exports) its economic territory including goods for processing. Information on the goods is provided by legal or natural person.  

3.7. Reference area
  • European Union (as aggregate and for each EU Member State)
  • Euro area (as aggregate and for each EA Member State)
3.8. Coverage - Time

For long term indicators (annual data):

  • EU28 since 2002, EU27 since 1999, EA19 since 1999
  • EU15 Member States (except Luxembourg) since 1990, Luxembourg since 1999
  • Other Member States since 1999 (except Croatia), Croatia since 2002

For short term indicators (monthly data):

  • EU28 since 2002, EU27 since 1999, EA19 since 1999
  • All Member States since 1999 (except Croatia), Croatia since 2002

Detailed data are available from 1988 onward or from a more recent year, depending on the dataset and declaring countries.

3.9. Base period

Starting from September 2013 trade in goods indices (IVU - unit value index and IVOL - volume index) are calculated for the reference year 2010 (2010 = 100) instead of 2000. This change has a limited impact on the calculation of indices, because IVU and IVOL are chained indices, that is for every period the base year is the previous year.


4. Unit of measure Top

Long term indicators (annual data)

  • values in billion euro
  • shares in %
  • indices (2010=100)

Short term indicators (monthly data)

  • values in million euro
  • growth rates in %
  • indices (2010=100)

Detailed data

  • values in euros or national currency
  • quantities in 100 kg (net mass)
  • quantities in supplementary units, according to the Combined Nomenclature (e.g. m, m2, number of items)


5. Reference Period Top

The reference period for the information on international trade transaction should be the calendar month of dispatch/export respectively that of arrival/import of the good. However, in practice the reference period is in general the calendar month during which the customs declaration is accepted by the national authorities on extra-EU trade and for intra-EU trade the calendar month during which VAT becomes chargeable on intra-EU acquisitions.


6. Institutional Mandate Top
6.1. Institutional Mandate - legal acts and other agreements

Extra-EU trade legislation: Statistics relating to the trading of goods by the Community and its Member States with non-member countries are based on Regulation (EC) No 471/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Commission Regulation (EC) No 92/2010 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 113/2010.

Intra-EU trade legislation: Statistics relating to the trading of goods between Members States are based on Regulation (EC) No 638/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1982/2004.

All regulations relevant for the European statistics on international trade in goods can be consulted from the ‘Legislation’ page of the ‘International trade in goods’ section on Eurostat website.All legal texts of the EU are accessible on Eur-Lex.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Not applicable


7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 on European statistics (recital 24 and Article 20(4)) of 11 March 2009 (OJ L 87, p. 164), stipulates the need to establish common principles and guidelines ensuring the confidentiality of data used for the production of European statistics and the access to those confidential data with due account for technical developments and the requirements of users in a democratic society.

7.2. Confidentiality - data treatment

Information about a product being traded may be regarded as commercially sensitive by the information provider for either the value of trade, the quantity of trade, or perhaps the ratio between the two, since this would give an indication of the price of the product. There are various ways in which the nature of the product can be suppressed although at the cost of a loss of information to the user of the statistics. Alternatively, the information provider may regard the origin or destination of goods as commercially sensitive. There are three types of confidentiality:

i) Partner Confidentiality: in order to conceal the destination or the origin of a product, the code of the partner country is replaced by a 'secret country code', different for intra- and extra-EU trade.

ii) Product confidentiality: in order to suppress the nature of the commodity involved, all or part of the trade is allocated to a confidential product code.

iii) Product and Partner Confidentiality: the two preceding types are applied at the same time; therefore both the partner and the product are hidden.

 

The levels of these three types of confidentiality can be assessed using data available in the Eurostat Comext database, where special codes are used for suppressing partner or product.

The impact of confidentiality over total trade, in terms of trade value, net mass and number of eight-digit product codes (CN8) is documented in the Quality Report on European statistics on international trade in goods.


8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

The precise date of the monthly release for international trade data is disseminated on the website (select language and release calendar).

8.2. Release calendar access

http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/news/release-calendar

8.3. Release policy - user access

In line with the EU legal framework and the European Statistics Code of Practice Eurostat disseminates European statistics on Eurostat's website (see item 10 - 'Accessibility and clarity') respecting professional independence and in an objective, professional and transparent manner in which all users are treated equitably. The detailed arrangements are governed by the Eurostat protocol on impartial access to Eurostat data for users.


9. Frequency of dissemination Top

Detailed data: Monthly and annual

Aggregated data: Monthly (short term indicators) and annual (long term indicators)


10. Accessibility and clarity Top
10.1. Dissemination format - News release

News releases on-line

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

International trade publications in PDF format are provided to the general public free of charge under the ‘International trade in goods’ dedicated section on Eurostat website.

News Releases
• The international trade Euro indicators News Release gives the first results (including estimates) on euro area and EU trade flows. It is published online around 46 days after the reference month. The precise date of the monthly release is announced on the Eurostat website. The headline indicators are the non-seasonally adjusted euro area and EU trade balances for the latest reference month. Detailed results by main products, main partners and Member State are given for the cumulated period, i.e. from January to the month preceding the latest reference month. Seasonally and working day adjusted aggregates (imports, exports and trade balance) are also available for the euro area and the EU. Note that the seasonally adjusted trade balance is one of the Principal European Economic Indicators (PEEIs) used to give an overall picture of the macroeconomic situation in the EU and the euro area.
• Ad-hoc news releases are published for specific events like summits or international days.
All news releases can be found under this link.


Statistics Explained
‘Statistics Explained’ is an official Eurostat website presenting all statistical topics in an easily understandable way. Together, the articles make up an encyclopedia of European statistics, completed by a statistical glossary clarifying all terms used and numerous links to further information and the very latest data and metadata. The website is a portal for occasional and regular users alike. All ‘Statistics Explained’ relating to ITGS can be accessed under this link. A series of articles are available, among them:

The articles in ‘Statistics Explained’ are regularly updated (usually once a year) and can be included in ‘virtual’ publications, such as the Eurostat Yearbook.

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

The last heading in the subfolder "International trade in goods – detailed data" of the Eurostat database tree relates to the traditional database access (Comext) which is a tailor-made application for external trade and production statistics.

All detailed data declared by EU Member States and datasets previously described together with data for EU historical data (since 1988), EFTA, Western Balkan and Mediterranean countries are available from Comext. Comext allows therefore users to access the same detailed datasets with a different interface.

This powerful tool is of particular value to regular users performing frequent extractions from the Comext database, often with a large volume of data or with very precise specific requests.

The users can filter any of the six main data dimensions to create a tailor-made query. The queries can be saved and modified for future use. In the Easy Comext user guide there is step-by-step information on how to make an extraction from the database. This can also be found in the online tutorial for Comext.

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

None.

10.5. Dissemination format - other

The Bulk Download facility allows users to download Eurostat datasets in a format which can easily be imported into a chosen tool for further analysis.

International trade in goods statistics are available in csv format from the Bulk Download web page and the Comext domain. They are accompanied by metadata (classifications, data availability, etc.) and methodological notes.

Where to find the most recent Comext data

Data for the latest months can be downloaded from the ‘Most recent Comext data’ subfolder. The following statistics are available for the EU and its Member States:

  • Trade values (thousands of euros) and quantities (in tonnes and supplementary unit), according to the product codes of the Combined Nomenclature and of the SITC and BEC classifications, by intra- and extra-EU partner country; and
  • Trade values (thousands of euros) and quantities (tonnes) by mode of transport, according to product codes of the Harmonised System and the nomenclature NSTR, by extra-EU partner country.

Where to find historical Comext data

Historical data can be downloaded from different subfolders:

  • 2016S1 and 2016S1_by_reporter — Monthly intra- and extra-EU trade data for the EU and its Member States from 1998 onwards;
  • 2016S2 — Annual intra- and extra-EU trade data for the EU and its Member States from 1988 onwards;
  • 2016S3 — Monthly and annual extra-EU trade data by transport mode for the EU and its Member States from 2002 onwards; and
  • 1976-1987_Nimexe_CD_image — Annual intra and extra-EU trade data from 1976 to 1987, broken down by product according to the Nimexe classification. The Nimexe classification was used to collect trade statistics before the implementation of the Combined Nomenclature in January 1988.
10.6. Documentation on methodology

User Guide on European statistics on international trade in goods — The purpose of this Guide is to explain to a wide range of users how the statistics relating to trade in goods, both between EU Member States and with non-EU countries, are collected, compiled, processed and published at European level. The different issues are tackled in a question and answer format.

10.7. Quality management - documentation

Quality Report on European statistics on international trade in goods — This Report provides users with a tool to assess the quality of the international trade in goods statistics published by Eurostat. The data quality can be assessed against indicators covering the following components: relevance, accuracy, timeliness and punctuality, accessibility and clarity, comparability and coherence.


11. Quality management Top
11.1. Quality assurance

Quality reporting is not a new concept in European trade statistics. Since 2005, the Intrastat legislation made annual reporting on determined quality indicators for international trade statistics mandatory. Member States have to supply Eurostat with an annual Quality Report in a fixed deadline after the reference year. In practice this reporting process has been harmonized: Member States fulfil their obligation of quality reporting by completing the annual quality questionnaire pre-filled by Eurostat. The key quality indicators are then gathered in a summary Quality Report published on Eurostat website.

New Intrastat and Extrastat basic acts applied from 2009 for Intrastat and from 2010 for Extrastat include standardised quality articles. These articles are in line with the ESS Quality definition, European Statistics Code of Practice and the Regulation of European Statistics. In particular, these articles will require the Member States to provide Eurostat with reports on the quality of the statistics transmitted according to standard quality criteria.

11.2. Quality management - assessment

The main strengths of the international trade in goods: the relevance, the timeliness and punctuality, the accessibility, the clarity and the coherence:

  • Relevance: The key users of international trade in goods statistics and their respective needs are very well known. The data relevance can be assessed as good thanks to satisfaction surveys and the frequent informal and formal contacts with users.
  • Timeliness and punctuality: The international trade in goods statistics benefit from the well-established data collection and compilation procedures and as well from the Intrastat and Extrastat regulations which include deadlines for data transmission to Eurostat.
  • Accessibility: All the different dissemination channels are used: electronic and paper publications, predefined tables, databases, DVDs and FTP addresses for bulk downloads.
  • Clarity: the dissemination of the international trade in goods statistics is supported by a complete set of structural metadata making possible to easily identify, retrieve and browse the data. The reference metadata describing the contents and the data quality are as well quite exhaustive. In particular, it is worth mentioning the User Guide and the annual Quality Report. Nevertheless, they are still place for improvement especially to better document the comparability across countries, domains or over time.
  • Coherence: The Intrastat and Extrastat regulations ensure the harmonisation of the concepts and definitions applied by the Member States when compiling the EU data to be provided to Eurostat. In addition, the coherence is strengthened by a harmonised approach implemented at Eurostat level for the data production and dissemination whatever the type of trade - intra or extra-EU trade - and the Member State.

Their main weaknesses: the accuracy and the comparability

  • Accuracy: The international trade in goods statistics benefit from well-established data collection systems supported by efficient validation and compilation tools. Nevertheless, there is still a place for improvement especially in the intra-EU trade statistics which suffer from non or late responses from some of the enterprises asked to report their trade in goods. In addition, the confidentiality impact the data accuracy at very detailed level, i.e. at the level of the 10000 8-digit codes of the product nomenclature.
  • Comparability: In particular, the comparability across countries could be improved through further harmonisation in the Member States' practices regarding specific goods or particular movements. In addition, trade statistics offer a unique possibility to scrutinise data through a "mirror" comparison of trade flows between the two countries involved (see chapter 16 for details). This kind of examination indicates problems in the comparability and may consequently reveal problems in the accuracy.

Remark: It should be kept in mind that, as basic data consists of millions of detailed trade declarations or reports each month, it is difficult to reach complete accuracy for the published statistics. As in all statistical work, a balance has to be struck between the resources devoted to checking and the likely benefit. Therefore the users should be aware of the margin of inaccuracies in the data used, at least concerning the most detailed level of data. This is particularly emphasised in the intra-EU trade statistics where smallest traders are exempted from making Intrastat declarations on their monthly trade (see chapter 14 for more details).


12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

The EU trade statistics follow largely the international recommendations by United Nations Statistics Division (cf. International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Concepts and Definitions, 2010). This general recommendations manual is updated regularly so that it reflects the changes in the environment of international trade. Furthermore, the Intrastat and Extrastat Regulations as well as classifications for international trade are revised regularly in order to take into account the economic and administrative environment as well as users' needs.

International trade in goods statistics are an important primary source for most public- and private-sector decision-makers. For example, at the European Union level, international trade data are extensively used for multilateral and bilateral negotiations within the framework of the common commercial policy, to define and implement anti-dumping policy, to evaluate the progress of the Single Market and many other policies. Moreover, they constitute an essential source for the compilation of balance of payments statistics and national accounts. In addition, they help European companies carry out market research and define their commercial strategy.

International trade forms an important part of the world economy and, as such, must be measured reliably and the relevant statistical data should be comparable and widely disseminated. The statistics satisfy this need in a variety of ways. Users may need either very aggregated or very detailed data on products or partner countries. They may be interested in movements of values of trade in current prices or in movements of the volume of trade at constant prices. Alternatively, their interest may be in the weight of trade or some other quantity measure. These examples, which are far from exhaustive, show the diversity of the users and their requirements. Eurostat tries to meet these various needs and to adapt to the changing environment as the progression toward globalisation, in particular, is becoming more and more important.

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

Eurostat undertook its last large-scale user satisfaction survey focusing on ITGS in 2007. The survey found a very high level of satisfaction among users: 85 % were very or fairly satisfied with the data. This high level of satisfaction has been confirmed by every general User Satisfaction Survey carried out by Eurostat since then (in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013). In the 2013 general survey, ‘International trade’ received the second most positive evaluation of all the statistical domains, with 60.5 % of respondents rating the data quality as very good or good and 19.3 % as adequate. ‘Economy and finance’ statistics received the highest evaluation, with 62.4 % (very good or good) and 18.5 % (adequate) respectively. These two domains outperformed the average rates.

12.3. Completeness

The EU trade statistics are based on the EU legislation which is directly applicable in the Member States. In particular, the legislation includes a clear and precise list of all the statistical variables to be provided by the Member States to Eurostat. All the mandatory variables are provided by all the Member States.


13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall

As intra-EU trade statistics stem from Intrastat declarations by the traders, a main source of error that affects accuracy of intra-EU data is late or non-response. Intra-EU as well as extra-EU trade data accuracy is also affected by specific characteristics of this statistical field, such as the practice of concealing confidential information and the exemption thresholds applied by countries in order to reduce the burden on enterprises.

13.2. Sampling error

EU trade statistics are based on the Intrastat system for the intra-EU trade and on the customs clearance system for the extra-EU trade. Thus, international trade in goods statistics are not affected by errors specifically applicable to sample surveys.

13.3. Non-sampling error

Accuracy of the international trade data is affected in different ways by thresholds, non-response, confidentiality practices, as well as by statistical value calculations.

a) Thresholds and non-response

In order to reduce the burden on enterprises, Member States have to define each year thresholds for intra-EU arrivals and dispatches that exempt enterprises to provide statistical information or to limit the information collected. By defining the exemption thresholds Member States have to ensure that at least 97 % of the Member States' trade value is covered. From the reference year 2009 onwards the minimum coverage rates are 95 % for arrivals and 97 % for dispatches.

Extra-EU trade statistics cover in principle all imports and exports declared by Member States. However, before 2010 it was allowed to exclude transactions whose value and net mass are lower than statistical thresholds. These thresholds are at maximum 1000 Euro or 1000 kg.

The loss caused by the exemption threshold as well as the loss of coverage due to late-response or non-response must be offset by means of adjustments. The problem of non-response for extra-EU trade should theoretically not exist since extra-EU trade statistics are based on customs declarations. Nevertheless, adjustments for "late" response may be necessary as well as adjustments for trade below the thresholds when an exemption threshold is applied.

The share of adjustments for trade below the thresholds and for non-response, calculated in terms of trade value, in intra- and extra-EU trade, is documented for each country in the Quality Report on International Trade Statistics.

The Quality report documents also the methodology used for these adjustments and the level of adjusted data by country for intra-, as well as for extra-EU trade.

 b) Confidentiality

In international trade statistics the principle of "passive confidentiality" is applied, by which data should be suppressed only at the request of traders who feel that their interests would be harmed by the dissemination of their data. Passive confidentiality is therefore different from "active confidentiality", where the National Statistical Authority takes directly the initiative to suppress data automatically when the suppression criteria are met, without informing the trade operator concerned. The considerable amount of detail in trade data means that the potential for the creation of confidential data at detailed level is extremely high. Passive confidentiality allows minimising the effect of suppression on the quality of detailed data.

There are three types of confidentiality:

i) Partner Confidentiality: in order to conceal the destination or the source or origin of a product, the code of the partner country is replaced by a 'secret country code', different for intra- and extra-EU trade.

ii) Product confidentiality: in order to suppress the nature of the commodity involved, all or part of the trade is allocated to a confidential product code. Information about a product may be regarded as commercially sensitive either for the value, the quantity or their ratio, since it would give an indication of the price of the product.

iii) Product and Partner Confidentiality: the two preceding types are applied at the same time; therefore both the partner and the product are hidden.

The levels of these three types of confidentiality can be assessed using data available in Eurostat Comext database, where special codes are used for hiding partner or product.

The impact of confidentiality over total trade, in terms of trade value, net mass and number 8-digit product codes (CN8) is documented in the Quality Report on International Trade Statistics. The importance of confidentiality is very different depending on the kind of trade, on the flow and on the Member State. Analysis of data point out that for most of the Member States, product confidentiality seems to affect rather more the dispatches/exports than the arrivals/imports. Moreover, some Member States are systematically only using one kind of confidentiality.

 c) Statistical value calculation

Trade figures are published as "statistical value". This is the value of goods at the border of the declaring country: FOB (free on board) value for export/dispatch or CIF (cost, insurance and freight) value for import/arrival. In intra-EU trade, the statistical value is not provided systematically by the information providers. It usually differs from the amount agreed on the sales agreement (the invoice value) as a result of the delivery terms used in the transaction; therefore the statistical value must be collected in connection with the invoice value or must be estimated by using other variables such as delivery terms and mode of transport.

Most Member States collect statistical value from the trade operators above the statistical value threshold only and then estimate it for trade operators which remain below this threshold. On the other hand, some Member States do not collect statistical value at all but carry out adjustments on the invoice value in order to estimate it. The methods adopted for calculating the statistical value in intra-EU trade for each country are documented in the Quality Report on International Trade Statistics.

In extra-EU trade, the statistical value based on customs value is collected; therefore there is generally no need to adjust it.

The quantitative impact of calculating the statistical value by country is documented in the Quality Report on International Trade Statistics. For most Member States it is relatively small. 


14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

According to the EU legislation, Member States should provide Eurostat with extra and intra-EU aggregatedstatistics within 40 calendar days after the reference month.

For extra-EU detailedstatistics the transmission deadlines are 40 days after the reference month, and for intra-EU detailed statistics 70 calendar days after the reference month.

First results (including estimates) on Euro area and EU trade balances are published on line around 46 days after the reference month in the international trade Euro-indicators news release. The latest supplied detailed data (updates and revisions) are published at the date of the monthly press release. Short term indicators are updated on a monthly basis at the date of the press release. They include all data published in the Euro-indicators news release. Long term indicators are updated generally once a year when complete results are available for the last reference year.

14.2. Punctuality

Nearly all Member States are currently able to meet these transmission timetables. Detailed data presented in the Quality Report on International Trade Statistics for example point out that a minority of countries delivered late intra- and extra-EU detailed or aggregated data and that average delay was not longer than some days.

Eurostat publishes preliminary aggregates using, if necessary, estimates for missing countries. Inevitably, the data first sent for a month are subject to the possibility of later revision, as a consequence of errors, omissions or - particularly with the Intrastat system - late declarations by information providers.


15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

a) Comparability between EU international trade statistics and those of its main partners

There are two main approaches used for the measurement of international trade in goods, the general trade system and the special trade system. For extra-EU trade statistics, the special trade system is applied which means that goods from a non-EU country which are received into customs warehouses are not recorded in international trade in goods statistics unless they subsequently go into free circulation in the Member State of receipt (or are placed under the customs procedures for inward processing). Similarly, outgoing goods from customs warehouses are not recorded as exports. The general trade system, which is applied by most of the EU main partner countries, is a wider concept since it includes all goods entering or leaving the country. It should be noted that intra-EU trade statistics do not have a direct link to customs procedures, thus they are not compiled on a general or special trade basis.

 b) Comparability between Community concept and National concept

EU legislation serves as a basis for compiling the intra- and extra-EU trade statistics sent by the Member States and published by Eurostat. However, EU statistics, which cover the EU as a whole, and the statistics compiled and published by the Member States, are not always directly comparable. Member States may use a national concept at national level but they have to provide Eurostat with harmonised data according to the Community concept. The principal differences between the Community concept and national concepts are as follows:

  • Breakdown by partner country: For arrivals, certain Member States record the country of origin as the partner country, whereas the Member State of consignment appears in the Community statistics relating to the same movements.
  • Treatment of goods in transit: Some Member States do not record in their national figures goods, which they consider to be 'in transit'. This involves, firstly, imports from non-member countries which are cleared in these Member States before being dispatched to other Member States and, secondly, goods from other Member States which are immediately re-exported to non-member countries. These flows are included in the Community statistics under intra- or extra-EU trade, as appropriate. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to the 'Rotterdam effect'.
  • Other differences: Other methodological differences can cause discrepancies between national and Community statistics, for example applying the general trade system at national level rather than the special trade system.

 c) Comparability between intra-EU trade statistics based on Community concept

In theory, intra-EU trade statistics based upon Community concept should be fully comparable; therefore data should generally be less affected by asymmetries than extra-EU trade statistics. Dispatches from Member State A to Member State B, as reported by A, should be almost equal to arrivals into B from A, as reported by B. Due to a different valuation principle (CIF > FOB), arrivals should be slightly higher than dispatches. However, since the Intrastat system came into operation, 19 bilateral comparisons have revealed major and persistent discrepancies in the intra-EU trade statistics. Therefore, comparisons dealing with intra-EU trade statistics have to be made cautiously and should take into account the existence of these discrepancies. The main reasons for the discrepancies are known and are represented by the thresholds, the non-response and their related adjustments; statistical confidentiality; triangular trade; time lags in the registration of the transactions; misclassification of goods; or by other methodological differences. Many Member States regularly carry out bilateral studies to find out at detailed product level where the problems are and to resolve them. However, remedies are not easily found despite all the analyses done.

Additional differences between the methodology applicable to trade statistics published by Eurostat (known as Community figures) and those published by Member States, as well as between Community figures and other international sources that affect comparability are described in the Statistics on the trading of goods User guide (2006).

15.2. Comparability - over time

Changes due to definitions, coverage or methods and other changes will have an impact on the continuity of international trade series. The impact of the different methodological and practical changes that have occurred in recent years (enlargement of the EU, changes in the Intrastat and Extrastat legislation, changes in product nomenclatures, etc.) is difficult to assess precisely. In particular the accession of new Member States to the EU may cause problems to the comparability over time since it implies for the acceding country a change from an administrative data source (Extrastat) to a purely statistical data collection system (Intrastat). This may have an impact on the accuracy of statistics at detailed level.

CHANGE OF REFERENCE YEAR FOR INDICES (2010 = 100)

Starting from September 2013 trade in goods indices (IVU - unit value index and IVOL - volume index) are calculated for the reference year 2010 (2010 = 100) instead of 2000. This change has a limited impact on the calculation of indices, because IVU and IVOL are chained indices, that is for every period the base year is the previous year.  The main effect of a new reference year is a different scaling of the series, while the relative variation between two different periods should remain the same (apart from changes due to revisions of the basic trade figures).

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

Apart from the international trade statistics, information on trade flows can be found in National Accounts, Business Statistics and Balance of Payments. The compilation of the data and the production of the above mentioned statistics follow the recommendations (sources and methods) of different international organisations, i.e. Eurostat, International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations (UN), etc. The Quality Report on International Trade Statistics documents the main differences between these sources in terms of concepts and definitions, statistical unit or object, classification (nomenclature) used, geographical breakdown, reference period and correction methods.

15.4. Coherence - internal

A key feature of the data set is its coherence. Aggregated data are constructed from detailed data over Member States and over different product classifications with the help of official correspondence tables. This ensures internal coherence. In addition, derived indicators such as unit value indices or seasonally adjusted series are calculated by Eurostat from the detailed data provided by Member States in order to maintain coherence.

An assessment of the internal coherence of the published datasets by the production unit.


16. Cost and Burden Top

The standard data source used for the compilation of extra-EU trade statistics is the customs declaration. By submitting the customs declaration the traders fulfil also the statistical obligations so no additional data collection is needed.

A specific data collection system called Intrastat is used to collect data for the compilation of intra-EU trade statistics. Since its introduction in 1993, the Intrastat system has been simplified several times to reduce the administrative burden. More enterprises have been exempted from Intrastat reporting and enterprises liable to reporting have to report less data. In addition, the enhanced use of IT tool in data collection has further facilitated Intrastat reporting.

Despite all the simplification measures, Intrastat remains by far the most burdensome area of business statistics. During the last few years several evaluations have been made. In 2009, the administrative burden of the Intrastat system was studied as a part of the Commission Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the EU. The estimations suggest that the administrative burden of the Intrastat was 317 million euros which represents more than 50% of the entire administrative burden from official statistics on businesses.[1] Efforts are being undertaken to reduce the burden.


[1] http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/admin_burden/docs/enterprise/files/abst09_statistics_en.pdf


17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Data are revised frequently according to national needs and practices. They become normally final from six months up to more than one year after the reference year. Revisions to older data are also possible. Eurostat makes the revisions available in its monthly updates as soon as they were transmitted by the Member States.

17.2. Data revision - practice

Metadata reports on revisions to trade in goods data are published monthly measuring the revision both in terms of the value change and the percentage change. Both are useful complementary measures for different users of trade in goods data. Measuring the percentage change can inform users on the effect of changes on individual Member States data. Measuring the value change allows users to be informed on the impact of the changes in trade figures from both large and small economies on EU and EA aggregate figures.

The definition a ‘large’ revision will depend very much on the data user and how they use the data. To aid both revisions monitoring and user understanding of the impact of revisions, Eurostat and Member States have agreed on thresholds to define different levels of revision and these definitions are included with the published metadata reports mentioned above. Thresholds have been defined for both changes between subsequent data publication and between when the data were first published and the most recently available data.

The metadata reports (Susbsequent revision level and Revision level from first release) can be found on the ‘Focus on Comext’ page of the ‘International trade in goods’ section on Eurostat website.


18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

The Member States collect, compile and transmit international trade in goods statistics to Eurostat in line with the legislation in force. The information providers are generally enterprises with a trade above the threshold.

- Extra-EU trade statistics are collected on the basis of Customs declaration.

- Intra-EU trade statistics are collected on the basis of the Intrastat declarations provided by the trade operators not exempted from the statistical obligation, i.e. taxable persons in the reporting Member State who have carried out an annual intra-EU trade above the Intrastat exemption threshold during the previous year or reached the threshold during the current year.

In addition to the data collected from Customs and Intrastat declarations, Member States compile and provide Eurostat with adjustments in order to compensate the impact of the trade not collected due to the threshold system. 

18.2. Frequency of data collection

Monthly.

18.3. Data collection

Extra-EU trade statistics data are collected by using customs declaration. Trade operators fulfilling their reporting obligations to the Customs authorities in a Member State are providing at the same occasion the statistical data. The statistical information depends, therefore, very much on customs practices, definitions and policies and only few dimensions are collected purely for statistical purpose. The dependence on customs procedures entails to a high quality and nearly total coverage of data on trade with non-EU countries.

Intra-EU trade statistics are collected directly from trade operators as a consequence of the abolishment of customs control at the borders between the Member States. The reporting burdens are simpler, compared with the Extrastat system and private individual and small scale traders are excluded. However, any taxable person in a Member State carrying out intra-EU trade and being above a certain threshold is obliged to report monthly on its intra-EU trade to the competent national statistical authorities. The national authorities use data on the total taxable amount of intra-EU acquisitions and deliveries provided by the fiscal authorities to identify the target population and maintain registers on trade operators.

More and more electronic data transmission systems are implemented in the Member States facilitating the communication between the national authorities and the trade operators. Therefore, the use of traditional paper declarations is declining.

18.4. Data validation

The prime responsibility for ensuring the accuracy of international trade data rests with national authorities. Further checks are carried out by Eurostat, essentially to ensure that the transmission of the requested data has been carried out satisfactorily, that datasets are complete, error-free, and there are no extreme values (outliers).

18.5. Data compilation

EU and euro area aggregates are calculated on the basis of the harmonised figures provided by the Member States according to the Community concept.

Seasonally adjusted figures are calculated by Eurostat with a common methodology and computer programs: raw data by country are first adjusted by the number of working days on the basis of each national calendar. Outliers are detected and removed using the "Time series Regression with ARIMA noise, Missing values and Outliers" (Tramo) procedure. The figures obtained are, in turn, seasonally adjusted by using the "Signal Extraction in ARIMA Time Series" (Seats) procedure developed by Maravall & Gomes. The results by country are then aggregated to provide the data on the EU and euro area totals. The seasonal adjustment is based on statistical ARIMA models that are re-defined every year whereas the parameters are re-estimated every month.

Indices are calculated by Eurostat, using a common methodology and computer programs: monthly raw data are processed at the most detailed level in order to calculate elementary unit-values defined by trade value/quantity. These unit-values are divided by the average unit-value of the previous year to obtain elementary unit-value indices, from which outliers are detected and removed. Elementary unit-value indices are then aggregated over countries and commodities, by using the Laspeyres, Paasche and Fisher formulae. Finally, the Fisher unit-value indices are chained back to the reference year (2010=100) and are used to approximate the import and export price movements. Value-indices are calculated as the percentage change between the trade value of the current month and the average monthly trade value of the previous year. These value indices are used to derive volume indices as follows: value index = unit-value index x volume index. The growth rates of unit-value and volume indices enable the user to decompose value changes into price and volume components.

The statistical value

International trade in goods statistics apply harmonised principles when compiling the statistical value of trade flows. In general all goods should be valued with the total amount which would be invoiced in case of sale or purchase at the national border of the reporting Member State. In practice the statistical value of the good is based in most of the cases for intra-EU trade on the taxable amount determined for VAT purposes and for extra-EU trade on the value determined for customs purposes.

However, for some trade transactions the amount determined for fiscal or customs purposes is not applicable. This concerns mainly processing transactions, transaction not involving transfer of ownership and return of goods. In these cases the total sale or purchase amount of the good has to be estimated.

The statistical value does not include taxes on export or import, such as customs duties, value added tax, excise duty, levies, export refunds or other taxes with similar effect. It includes only incidental expenses (freight, insurance) incurred, in the case of exports/dispatches, in the part of the journey located on the territory of the reporting Member State and, in the case of imports/arrivals, in the part of the journey located outside the territory of the reporting Member State. It is said to be a FOB value (free on board), for exports/dispatches, and a CIF value (cost, insurance, freight) for imports/arrivals.

The statistical value of the trade flow is transmitted by the Member States in their national currency and converted by Eurostat into Euro if necessary.

The quantity measurements

The quantity of a commodity is documented essentially in kilograms. This is the net weight of the commodity, which is defined as the weight of the commodity without any packing. Some Member States do not transmit anymore the net mass when the supplementary unit is collected for intra-trade statistics as from 2006. However from 2010 onwards Member States shall estimate the net mass whenever it is not collected. 

For selected types of commodities the quantity is also recorded and documented in a supplementary unit as this furnishes further useful information (e.g. Carats, Kilowatt Hours, Litre, Square Metre, Cubic Metre, Number of Items, Terajoule). Further information whether a supplementary unit is collected for a given good is available in the Combined Nomenclature.

Inclusions

The following transactions are generally included in international trade in goods statistics: Barter trade, goods on consignment, goods on financial lease, goods traded between enterprises under common ownership, goods traded on government account and goods with a view or following processing.

Exclusions

The following transactions are excluded from international trade in goods statistics for conceptual or methodological reasons:

- Goods in simple transit: The reporting on operations in transit countries are excluded when the good travels directly through the transit country or stops for reasons only related to its transport.

- Temporary trade: Goods moving abroad or entering the reporting Member State for a period not longer than 24 month without change of ownership, undergoing no transformation except normal depreciation (e.g. hire, operational leasing). 

- Particular trade not subject of a commercial transaction (e.g. advertisement material, commercial samples)

- Supply for national arm forces stationed abroad, embassies and emergency aid for disaster areas.

- Means of payment and monetary gold

- Goods for and after repair

A comprehensive list of goods excluded for methodological reasons is given in the Annex I of the Commission Regulations (EC) No 113/2010 (Extrastat) and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1982/2004 (Intrastat).

Specific movements of goods

There are some movements of goods of such a nature that their inclusion in international trade in goods statistics merits separate mention. These goods are defined as specific movements, whose features are significant for the interpretation of the information. More specifically, the features may relate to the movement as such, the nature of the goods, the transaction which gives rise to the movement of the goods or the exporter or importer of the goods, in particular industrial plant; vessels and aircraft; sea products; goods delivered to vessels and aircraft; staggered consignments; military goods; goods to or from offshore installations; spacecraft; motor vehicle and aircraft parts; electricity and gas and waste products. These goods need specific provisions regarding the scope of trade or the data sources. For most of these goods harmonised rules are determined by the Commission Regulations (EC) No 113/2010 (Extrastat) and (EC) No 1982/2004 (Intrastat).

Trade system

European international trade in goods statistics applies the special trade system which means that goods from a non-EU country which are received into customs warehouses are not recorded in international trade in goods statistics unless they subsequently go into free circulation in the Member State of receipt (or are placed under the customs procedures for inward processing). Similarly, outgoing goods from customs warehouses are not recorded as exports.

18.6. Adjustment

Adjustments are applied on the value of trade between Member States to take into account late response and transactions below the statistical thresholds.

For intra-EU trade adjustment of quantities are also made when Member States operate a simplification threshold or/and when information on quantities for certain products is not collected.


19. Comment Top

Confidential Data

The criteria determining which statistical data are considered confidential are fixed by each Member State in the light of national legislation or practice. For international trade in goods statistics, Member States generally apply the principle of 'passive confidentiality', i.e. they take suitable measures at the request of importers or exporters who feel that their interests would be harmed by the dissemination of the data.

Two types of data can be made confidential in connection with a Member State's trade: the CN product code and the partner country code. A Member State may decide to make all or part of a product code confidential. If a Member State wishes to conceal the destination or the source (origin) of a product, the code of the partner country is replaced by a 'secret country' code. The application of 'trading partner confidentiality' does not preclude product confidentiality.

Methodological differences and sources of error

The user of international trade in goods statistics should be aware of certain problems such as categories of goods where there are particular difficulties of data collection, data discontinuities, and specific policies on data dissemination.

Discrepancies between EU and national figures There are differences between the methodology applicable to international trade in goods statistics published by Eurostat (known as EU figures) and those published by Member States. The main sources of conceptual differences between national and EU figures are:

- Different treatment of goods in transit

- Certain Member States use a general trade system completely for their national figures while providing data on a special trade basis to Eurostat;

- Partner country for imports: A Member State provides data for their imports to Eurostat on a country of origin basis but publishes them at national level on a country of consignment basis;

- Partner country for arrivals: Certain Member States provide data to Eurostat on a country of consignment basis but they use the country of origin as criterion for their national figures.

Between EU and international sources: Data management problems are regarded as major contributory factors to the differences between EU figures and other international sources. These problems usually arise from the following issues:

- Member States send also their trade statistics to UN, OECD or IMF. The differences that exist between data published by Eurostat and those published by Member States will therefore exist between Eurostat data and that published by these other international organisations;

- The revisions issue: The national practices in revising data to correct past estimates are complex and vary between Member States as does their practice in providing revisions to Eurostat and other international organisations;

- Conversion Methods: Methods to convert national data into a common currency - euro for EU figures, dollars for other sources - may be different (monthly, quarterly, annually conversion).


Related metadata Top


Annexes Top