The United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade) was established in the early 1960s. For almost fifty years, it has provided a wealth of trade information to policy makers, business community, research institutions and the general public. It stores standardised official annual trade statistics reported by countries and reflecting international merchandise flows detailed by commodity and partner country with coverage reaching up to 99 percent of world merchandise trade.
The United Nations Statistical Commission at its forty-first session held on 23-26 February 2010 recognized the importance of UN Comtrade as the global database and information platform and requested UNSD to enhance its features and metadata. Acting on the Commission’s decision and responding to users’ expectations, UNSD is making a special effort to upgrade UN Comtrade in the near future.
Free Data Downloading Services
Since UN Comtrade became available on the Internet in 2003, it allowed free access to any data record to any user worldwide by enabling them to run unlimited data queries and extract up to 1000 records per query. The limit of 1000 records was due to the computing capacity of our office. This service, however, meets the need of most users. Access to downloading services for a larger amount of data was on a subscription basis and a fee is charged for cost-recovery. Recognising that official statistics is a public good and that the demand for data has increased, UNSD will ensure that each and every user of trade statistics will have unlimited free access to trade data, subject to our technical constraints. With immediate effect, UNSD is pleased to announce that:
- Free unlimited access will be available for all users through free downloading services. For technical reasons, a download limit of 50,000 data records per query is currently necessary. There is no limit on the number of queries. As we expand our technical computing capacity, we will relax this limitation further;
- Registered institutional users from developing countries will be provided with special arrangements on the free access to and unrestricted use of trade data. We will work on this in coordination with National Statistical Offices and the UN Regional Commissions as necessary.
Upgrading and Expansion
To further improve data quality and data accessibility, UNSD is upgrading UN Comtrade to include (i) new trade data which countries will make available as they implement the revised recommendations for international trade statistics and (ii) detailed monthly and quarterly trade data in order to allow short term analysis of the global economy.
Detailed monthly trade data are made available by many countries through their national media as well as by some regional organizations. However, unlike the annual data, these data are not yet standardized and are not readily accessible at the global level. To meet the user demand and to enhance the policy relevance and analytical value of the internationally available trade data, UNSD intends to begin the collection, storage and dissemination of detailed (6-digit level of HS) monthly and quarterly data as part of its regular work programme.
The upgrading of UN Comtrade is an expensive undertaking and additional costs will be incurred to finance the upgrading as well as the collection, processing and dissemination of the short term data. Furthermore, to ensure uninterrupted flow of high quality data, UNSD conducts an intensive technical assistance programme which includes country and regional training workshops and providing special assistance to individual countries. In order to cover these additional operational costs and to secure funds for technical assistance programme, UNSD will continue to seek funding support from development partners.
There are special occasions whereby a user may require premium service in obtaining the trade data. These could include bulk download of millions of records or special professional assistance. In this regard, a small fee will be charged to cover the costs of the provision of such service.
Please contact us at the UN Comtrade e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.