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International Merchandise Trade Statistics:
Supplement to the Compilers Manual

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International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Supplement to the Compilers Manual

The International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Supplement to the Compilers Manual has been prepared with the support of the inter-agency Task Force on International Merchandise Trade Statistics (TFIMTS) as agreed at its 2003 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The primary purpose of the Supplement is to assist United Nations Member States in the implementation of the guidelines adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission and laid out in International Merchandise Trade Statistics : Concepts and Definitions , Revision 2 (IMTS, Rev.2 ) and International Merchandise Trade Statistics : Compilers Manual . The Supplement may also serve as a guide to users who wish to understand better the nature of trade data.

The Supplement covers a number of topics deemed to be beneficial to trade data compilers, including an overview of compiling practices, the revised International convention on the simplification and harmonization of customs procedures (revised Kyoto Convention), the 2007 edition of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, specific compilation issues such as goods for processing and re-exports, an overview of the differences between IMTS and general merchandise in balance of payments statistics, the lessons learned from the Intrastat system of the European Union, and the topic of linking trade and business statistics.

The Supplement is directed to all institutions which play a role in the collection, compilation and dissemination of trade statistics - the term “compiler” as used in the Supplement refers to those institutions. It recognizes that customs departments around the world are the primary producers of basic data on trade transactions, whereas national statistical offices are mostly responsible for processing and dissemination of the trade statistics. Much of the text is written in respect of individual countries or areas. However, as customs unions have become more prevalent in recent years, a separate chapter has been added specifically on collection of data within a customs union.


The Supplement was drafted by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division (UNSD), with contributions from members of TFIMTS. Specifically, we would like to thank Mr. Andreas Maurer and Mr. Yann Marcus of the World Trade Organization for their significant inputs to sections 4A and 4D, Mr. Clemens Schröter and Mr. Karo Nuortila of the Statistical Office of the European Communities for their initial drafts of chapter 6 and section 4B, and Mr. Andreas Lindner of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for his initial draft of chapter 7. Further, we very much appreciated the comments received from Mr. Robert Dippelsman of the International Monetary Fund and Mr. Simon Royals of the World Customs Organization. The drafting of the Supplement went through various cycles of revisions and the responsibility of the final versions of all chapters lies entirely with UNSD.

Explicitly or implicitly, information on IMTS issues and practices has been passed on by trade statistics compilers to UNSD via workshops and other meetings in many regions of the world (Addis Ababa (2004), Khartoum (2004), Abuja (2005), Douala (2006), Bangkok (2006), Fiji (2007), Lima (2007), Amman (2007) and Addis Ababa (2007), and also the Expert Group on IMTS in New York (2007), please click here for details). We are grateful for all the input received in this way and specifically like to mention the examples of practices of Brazil, China, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway, which have been incorporated in this Supplement. Furthermore, we thank all national offices which have completed and returned the National Compilation and Dissemination Practices questionnaire. The unique information received via these questionnaires has been processed and an overview of the results is shown in the first chapter of the Supplement.

Last but not least, we would like to acknowledge the many hours devoted to the drafting and re-drafting of the Supplement by the staff of the Trade Statistics Branch of UNSD, specifically Mr. Vladimir Markhonko, who retained the overall responsibility of this publication, Mr. Ronald Jansen, Mr. Matthias Reister and Mr. Serekeberhan Zerai.


The Supplement is divided into seven chapters, covering compilation practices (chapters 1 and 6), reference documentation (chapters 2 and 3), compilation issues (chapter 4), conceptual issues (chapter 5) and the relation between trade and business statistics (chapter 7). Relevant country experiences have been added in chapters 4 and 7, whereas chapter 6 provides an in-depth view of the trade data collection system of the European Union. Several annexes provide supplementary information; they immediately follow the chapter to which they refer.

Chapter 1, which gives an overview of the results of the National Compilation and Dissemination Practices questionnaire, follows the structure of the questionnaire, which in turn follows the structure of the IMTS: Compilers Manual. The content of this chapter is completely new and should give the data compiler some insights in how countries in general are complying with the recommendations set out in IMTS, Rev.2.

Chapters 2 and 3 describe some recently published reference documents related to the work of trade statistics. Chapter 4 treats in detail specific compilation issues which had received renewed interest in recent years, namely Goods for Processing, Goods for Repair, Re-exports and the Feasibility of Imports FOB. Chapter 5 gives an in-depth report on the differences in treatment of trade statistics between IMTS, Rev.2 and the sixth edition of the Balance of Payments Manual (BPM6).

Chapter 6 and 7 relate trade to enterprise statistics. Because customs documents are no longer available as data source for intra-community trade the European Union had to source information directly from enterprises engaged in international transactions. More generally, chapter 7 looks at how to link trade to the characteristics of enterprises, which is important for national economic analysis of issues such as employment.

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