The Friends of the Chair (FOC) group on the measurement of international trade and economic globalization presented a report (E/CN.3/2015/12) at the 46th session of the UN Statistical Commission, which made concrete proposals for the development of a measurement framework, for the priorities of the program of work in this field and for the establishment of a coordination mechanism. The decision on this agenda item is outlined in the box below.
46/107 International trade and economic globalization statistics
The Statistical Commission:
- Appreciated the report of the Friends of the Chair group on the measurement of international trade and economic globalization, and congratulated the Friends of the Chair group for its work accomplished;
- Agreed with the proposal of the Friends of the Chair group to draft a handbook on a system of extended international and global accounts as the measurement framework for international trade and economic globalization, while:
- Building on work accomplished on the measurement of international trade and economic globalization by others, including the work undertaken under the auspices of Eurostat, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Economic Commission for Europe;
- Addressing the use of microdata related to businesses, including administrative data, and their links to international trade data, as well as theissue of sharing microdata among countries, including legal frameworks and potential problems of data confidentiality;
- Addressing the integration of economic, environmental and social dimensions of trade and globalization as an extension of the 2008 SNA and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA);
- Taking into account the different levels of sophistication of national statistical systems and the need to attain an adequate balance between user needs and the work and costs related to these statistics;
- Endorsed the establishment of an expert group tasked with the development of the handbook on a system of extended international and global accounts, proposed that this group be a continuation of the Friends of the Chair group with the option for other countries to join, while balancing the geographical representation, and requested that the terms of reference of the expert group be established with a clear mandate, timetable and list of deliverables, so that the appropriate momentum of the work of the group is maintained;
- Agreed with the proposed programme of work for the measurement of international trade and globalization, namely:
- Promoting and advancing the creation of a global enterprise group register, building on and taking into account lessons learned from the ongoing EuroGroups Register project;
- Improving the measurement of firm heterogeneity based on alternative aggregations of microdata and by further developing a classification of business functions, while cautioning against any change in the International Standard Industrial Classification;
- Addressing asymmetries in bilateral trade and foreign direct investment while building on work already undertaken in several countries and coordinating this effort with work already being done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development;
- Mainstreaming the development of recurrent global supply-use and input-output tables as undertaken by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in collaboration with other regional and international organizations, with the aim of increasing the coverage of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development-World Trade Organization database on trade in value-added;
- Also agreed with the proposal to establish an intersecretariat working group for international trade and economic globalization statistics, with the request to develop a mandate that includes:
- Coordination of work undertaken by the various international and regional organizations in this field, while ensuring proper cooperation regarding work programmes and activities worldwide, taking account of existing work and reducing duplication;
- Promotion of the development of databases, at the international, regional and national levels, for international trade and economic globalization statistics;
- Coordination and promotion of capacity-building activities to improve these statistics at the micro-level for the better calculation of statistics at the macro level.
The Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics presented a report (E/CN.3/2015/4) at the 46th session of the UN Statistical Commission, which made concrete proposals to further continue the work of the Global Working Group by:
46/101 Data in support of the post-2015 development agenda (Sub-item III. Big data)
The Statistical Commission:
- Appreciated the report of the Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics and congratulated the Group on its work accomplished so far;
- Congratulated and expressed its appreciation to China for organizing a very successful International Conference on Big Data for Official Statistics in October 2015 and for successfully hosting the first meeting of the Global Working Group;
- Agreed with the terms of reference and mandate of the Global Working Group, as described in annex I to the report, as well as with the division of the work into various task teams, while requesting the Global Working Group to pay special attention to issues such as:
- Sharing of experiences of lessons learned from big data projects;
- Quality concerns related to the use of big data for official statistics;
- Coordination of the work of the Global Working Group with the work undertaken at the regional level, especially in Europe, in order to build on achievements and repurpose and reuse outputs;
- Existing technology gap of developing countries and need for funding for developing countries to be able to take part in the big data projects;
- Legal frameworks for access to big data sources, especially from the private sector, while addressing privacy concerns;
- Skills, human resources and capacity-building needed to address big data adequately, especially in relation to data science and information technology;
- Demonstration and explanation of the limitations of big data for official statistics;
- Building of partnerships, which is necessary to exploit and harness big data, especially with the private sector, research institutes and academia;
- Requested the Global Working Group to look into the use of other big data sources in addition to mobile phone data, social media data and satellite imagery, such as transaction data through e-commerce, and also to look into the transboundary aspects and associated challenges of the big data sources;
- Stressed that big data should be seen as part of secondary data sources, and that, in that respect, the use of administrative data sources should receive due attention as well;
- Supported the proposals of the Global Working Group to conduct a global survey on big data projects, and supported as well the pilot big data projects conducted under the umbrella of the Global Working Group, while encouraging and welcoming the participation of interested countries or institutes with the purpose of sharing experiences and building capacity.
At its biennial meeting in May 2011 in New York, the Expert Group (EG) on International Statistical Classifications agreed to establish a technical subgroup (TSG) for the revision of the Classification of Broad Economic Categories (BEC). As further explained below, the revised BEC was not submitted to the Commission in 2014, but is now intended for submission in 2016.Whereas a first full draft of the manual of the BEC, fifth revision, was completed by June 2013, several iterations were necessary to arrive at a draft manual which was ready for global consultation. This revision process of the draft manual moved the preparation of the questionnaire of the global consultation into 2014. The global consultation was finally conducted from July to September 2014, and a report of this global consultation has now been submitted to the EG at its biennial meeting in May 2015 as a background document. The timing of the global consultation did not allow enough time to finalize the BEC manual in 2014. Instead, the final draft BEC manual will then be submitted to EG by September 2015 and the EG can thereafter submit it to the 47th session of the Commission in 2016.
This summer, UNSD is conducting global surveys of all national statistical offices on external trade indices and linking trade statistics to the statistical business register (SBR).
The manual on International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS 2010, para. 11.1 - 11.2) recommends that all countries produce and publish, on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, both volume (quantum) indices and either price or unit-value indices for their total imports and exports. Countries are also encouraged to calculate and publish such indices for commodity groups of particular importance at least quarterly and annually. The survey on external trade indices aims to identify and update the information on the current national practices, and seeks to identify the current issues and needs faced by national statistical systems in the compilation of the external trade indices.
The second survey aims to assess the status of national practices for linking trade statistics to the SBR and the compilation and dissemination of data on trade by enterprise characteristics. An increasing number of countries have undertaken projects to link trade statistics to the SBR at the micro-level. Such integrated datasets can, for instance, indicate which firms, characterized by industry, size class, foreign ownership, and geographic location, are engaged in international trade as part of global value chains, and the importance of those firms for the overall economy. The SBR can also serve as a cost-effective integrated sample frame for integrated survey design (thereby reducing response burden) and be an important tool for stratification, imputation and editing of basic source data.
UNSD will report on its findings from the global surveys later this year.
In 2013, an inter-agency working group was established with the objective of developing an implementation framework of SDMX standards for International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS). The group consists of Eurostat, ITC, OECD, UNCTAD, and UNSD, as chair, and seeks to specify uniform structures, concept definitions and code lists for IMTS data and metadata which comply with the latest version of the SDMX standard (2.1), and the recommendations of IMTS 2010. The draft version of Data Structure Definition (DSD) for IMTS has been completed (including a concept scheme and code lists). UNSD has conducted a global consultation on the Trade SDMX in the 2nd quarter of 2015 and will compile its findings later this year.
A Regional Workshop on international trade in services statistics was organized by the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and the World Trade Organization, in collaboration with UNSD and UN ESCWA, on 25-28 January 2015 at the AMF headquarters in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Representatives of 16 countries and 5 international and regional organizations participated at the workshop, in which participants discussed all of the relevant elements of the compilation process of trade in services statistics, including: pre-requisites; data collection methods; data processing on selected service categories, such as transportation, tourism, construction, and other business services; and data and metadata dissemination. Each session was followed by group discussions where countries exchanged their experiences, including issues they face and plans for solutions. Participants were very active and many made presentation on the status of trade in services compilation. Participants also contributed to the group work during plenary sessions. UNSD contributed 4 presentations. The regional workshop was followed by a national seminar for the United Arab Emirates, with participation of statistical authorities of the various emirates, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Economy. Country-specific issues were discussed with respect to data collection, data processing and dissemination of trade in services statistics, such as travel and tourism, institutional arrangements and foreign affiliates statistics.
Responding to a request from El Salvador for the improvement of its international trade statistics, UNSD designed a project which consists of 3 stages throughout 2015 and is based foremost on South-South cooperation with Paraguay offering its system as a model and Mexico providing supervision. The project started with an inception workshop in San Salvador from 3 to 5 February 2015 bringing together national experts of various institutes from El Salvador, plus experts from the Statistical Office of Mexico, the Central Bank of Mexico, the Central Bank of Paraguay, and the National Directorate of Customs of Paraguay. The opening session was attended by high-level officials from El Salvador, namely from the host organization, the Central Bank of El Salvador (BCR), the Customs administration, the Statistical Office and the Ministry of Economy, implying full support for this improvement project from the national stakeholders. UNSD was represented by the Chief of the International Merchandise Trade Statistics Section and one of his staff. About 23 statisticians, economists, customs officers and system developers participated in the workshop, with the overall objective of assessing current data collection and compilation practices in El Salvador, to compare these practices with those of countries in the region and to formulate the exact project deliverables and time schedule. The workshop will conclude with a comprehensive draft project document. The press release of BCR about the workshop is available here.
Big Data is one of the main buzz words on recent statistical conferences. The sub-title of this event was therefore “How do we meet the expectations?” The panelists answering this question were Ms. Susan Teltscher, Head of the ICT Data and Statistics Division of the ITU, Mr. Khalifa Al Barwani, CEO of the National Centre for Statistics and Information of Oman, Mr. Emanuele Baldacci, Head of Department for Integration, Quality and Research of Statistics Italy, and Mr. Bert Kroese, Deputy Director General and CIO of Statistics Netherlands. The panel was led by Mr. Trevor Sutton, Deputy Australian Statistician of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Mr. Sutton is also the chair of the recently established UN Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics. ITU showed that the penetration of mobile phone use is almost universal and that one can access the Internet almost from anywhere on the globe. The presenters of the national statistical offices gave practical examples on the use of mobile phone data for Tourism and Population statistics, of web-scraping for improvement of Unemployment statistics and of traffic sensor data for transport statistics. The event was attended by about 100 persons and the presentations are available of the Commission website.
For more information, visit the side-event website.
Within the larger context of the Data Revolution, data visualizations and data analytics have also received an increasing share of attention. One of the main reasons is that such visualization can show meaningful relations among large amounts of data in one graph. The presenters at this side-event were Mr. I-Sah Hsieh, Global Manager, International Development, SAS Institute, Mr. Lambert Hogenhout, Chief Analytics, Partnerships and Innovation, UN OICT, Mr. Abdulla Gozalov, Chief of Global Data Services Unit, UNSD and Mr. Ronald Jansen, Chief of Trade Statistics Branch, UNSD. UNSD and SAS have engaged on a fruitful cooperation to mine the Comtrade database with powerful analytical tools. OICT showed a variety of management tools for library search and networking, whereas Mr. Gozalov showed the latest developments regarding tools for UN Data and the MDG database. The event was attended by about 80 persons and the presentations are available of the Commission website.
For more information, visit the side-event website.
At the explicit invitation of Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary-General of the World Customs Organisation, UNSD and WTO organized a session on Customs and Trade Statistics during the WCO IT 2015 event, which was organized in the Bahamas this year. UNS and WTO also had an exhibition booth during the 3-day event with the support of staff from the national statistical office of the Bahamas. The purpose of the session and exhibition was to attract attention to the continued importance of Customs data for official trade statistics. The WCO IT event was opened by the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Mr. Perry Gladstone Christie, in the presence of Mr. Mikuriya and a number of other high officials from the Bahamas. The Chief of the Trade Statistics Branch made two presentations and the Chief of the international merchandise trade statistics section also gave a presentation. Besides strengthening the cooperation with WCO, UNSD also met with representatives of several national Customs administrations and of the private sector, all involved with the data streams on cross-border movement of goods, which could potentially be used to improve trade statistics.
For more information, visit the event website.
The Chief of the Statistics of International Trade in Services Section represented UNSD at this meeting and made presentations on the compilation guide for tourism statistics, the post 2015 development agenda and on the use of Big Data for tourism statistics. The meeting was attended by experts of 18 countries and 10 regional and international organizations. The main topics of discussion were sustainable tourism and the post-2015 development agenda, capacity development in tourism statistics and the session on tourism statistics at the upcoming 60th ISI World Statistics Congress in July 2015 in Rio de Janeiro. The Committee agreed to the creation of a working group on sustainable tourism indicators which will be managed by UNWTO and be supported by UNSD. Two country presentations were also delivered at the meeting, namely by Egypt on (sub-national) regional statistics and the Tourism Satellite Account, and by Saudi Arabia on measuring tourism investment.
A UNSD staff member attended and contributed to UNFPA's “Big Data Bootcamp” held from 3 to 5 February 2015 in Barcelona. Big Data has been identified as a key organizational priority of UNFPA and the meeting was intended to bring together UNFPA data specialists, as well as experts in academia, the private sector, United Nations sister agencies and the development community with a view to developing a vision and strategic direction for UNFPA’s big data initiatives. The meeting employed an innovative “design thinking” methodology led by Betahaus Barcelona and was designed to elicit unique insights and ideas, and drive creative solution-generation. The meeting discussed the elements needed to formulate a strategic and innovative direction for UNFPA’s work on Big Data including the identification of: thematic areas of interest to UNFPA that can be informed by the use of Big Data; indicators reflecting UNFPA’s strategic work that can be strengthened through Big Data; types of Big Data that could be useful to complement traditional data; and, associated challenges such as technical, financial, ethical and legal implications of mining these data systematically, particularly when involving the private sector.
The New Techniques and Technologies for Statistics (NTTS) is an international biennial scientific conference series, organized by Eurostat, on new techniques and methods for official statistics, and the impact of new technologies on statistical collection, production and dissemination systems. This year the theme was “Reliable Evidence for a Society in Transition.” The programme of the conference (attended by about 500 statisticians, mostly from Europe) had a large number of sessions related to the issue of Big Data for Official Statistics, such as international and cross-sector Big Data, web scraping and smart meters, mobile phone data, privacy issues and Big Data, Geo-spatial Big Data, assessment of Big Data, as well as a dedicated Big Data workshop on Monday afternoon. UNSD was represented by the Chief of Trade Statistics Branch, who discussed the efforts made by UN Global Working Group (GWG) on Big Data. Most Big Data activities presented at the conference are part of the work of the GWG.
The Working Party is a country led event, in which all OECD member states plus some accession countries, and a number of international organizations are represented. In total, 50 participants took part in this meeting. The agenda covered current measurement issues in trade in services and trade in goods; linking trade and business statistics; global value chains analysis and Trade in Value-Added. UNSD was represented by the Chief of the International Merchandise Trade Statistics Section, who presented on the outcome of the recent session of the Statistical Commission regarding the item on international trade and economic globalization statistics; on the upcoming global consultations (to be conducted by UNSD) regarding external trade indices, linking trade and business statistics, and Trade-SDMX; and on the capacity building activities in this area of international trade statistics; as well as international cooperation on the topic of Big Data and trade statistics.
The Cartagena Data Festival – Better Data for a better tomorrow – organized in Cartagena 20-22 April 2015, brought together 450 statisticians, data scientists, development professionals, policy makers, journalists, researchers, and civil society representation for three days to discuss the critical gaps in the coverage, accessibility and analysis of data. Within in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, the conference discussed the use of Big Data, the role of National Statistical Offices and accountability and citizen engagement. UNSD contributed to the Data Festival by discussing the planned activities under the UN Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics. By bringing together a wide range of expertise, the Data Festival broke down silos and fostered new partnerships in order to develop new opportunities of moving forward. The message that came through loud and clear at the Festival, was that it is all important to have data, but the Data Revolution is about making the data accessible and useable. The Data Festival concluded that despite the importance of data, it is not data that will change the world, it is people.
OECD and UNU-CRIS jointly organized this event, which aimed to offer new insights on the role of global value chains (GVCs) in shaping the world economy, with particular reference to their linkages with regional integration policies. Even if final products may reach global markets, the underlying flows of intermediate goods and services tend to be concentrated in a limited group of countries, often belonging to the same region. Regional integration agreements may influence significantly the location of firms, the smooth circulation of goods and services within value chains, and their external competitiveness. The Chief of the Trade Statistics Branch of UNSD presented a project, which was recently launched as part of Big Data efforts in Europe. Large segments of the UN Comtrade database have been made available on the facilities of the high-end computing center of Ireland for exploratory data analysis. It was decided to do network analysis on these trade data to find regional value chains. The project will be executed in cooperation with the Italian statistical office, Statistics Netherlands, the Politecnico university of Milan, MIT research center, Eurostat and OECD. On Wednesday, 22 April 2015, this group came together to discuss details of the project.
The UNECE Workshop on Statistical Data Collection: Riding the Wave of the Data Deluge was held in Washington D.C., United States of America, from 29 April – 1 May 2015. New tools and methods for data collection were discussed, including computer-assisted interviewing; Big Data sources and pilot projects using Big Data for official statistics; and new dissemination tools, such as SDMX. UNSD presented information on its Big Data initiatives, including the UN Global Working Group on Big Data and the planned deliverables of the Task Teams involved, its current pilot projects exploring the use of Big Data, and participation in the UNECE Sandbox for developing and experimenting with Big Data analytical tools. Areas for future work were identified, including analyzing the costs and benefits of Big Data; gaining access to private-sector data providers; and integrating teams of data scientists, IT staff and statisticians to improve data compilation, analysis and dissemination. The workshop was attended by representatives from the statistical offices of 20 OECD countries, 3 other countries from Europe and Africa, and several international organizations , including the Eurasian Economic Commission, Eurostat, International Labour Organization (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), OECD, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Bank.
EU member countries presented their experience in the implementation of the new statistical standard (MSITS 2010) and the new service classification EBOPS 2010. Eurostat presented their assessment of the 2014 trade in services data production cycle including quality assessment, new metadata questionnaire, asymmetries analysis. The findings of the Task Force on services trade by enterprise characteristics and also a report on services by modes of supply were also presented at the meeting.
The Big Data Sandbox project was initiated in 2014 in order to provide a shared platform to facilitate groups and individuals to collaborate on evaluating and testing new tools, techniques and sources which have the potential to be of use in modern statistical analysis. This project has proved very successful and has extended into 2015 with an improved sandbox infrastructure and addressing more ambitious and challenging goals. The platform has enabled statisticians to evaluate tools and approaches which are being employed by leading enterprises which make extensive use of analytics based on data generated by society. The sandbox is currently a unique platform where you can perform real tests and collaborate with other communities which is open to everyone.
However, it currently relies on short term voluntary contributions of capital funds and human effort. The future needs of the community should be placed on a sustainable path so that a suitable infrastructure and skilled support are in place to enable and encourage testing, training and sharing of knowledge and data sets. The Chief of International Merchandise Trade Statistics Section of UNSD participated in the sprint in order to align the future of sandbox with the work of Global Working Group on Big Data for Official statistics, especially to mitigate knowledge and technology gap of developing countries in the big data projects. The sprint discussed various scenarios on the developments of the current sandbox which include considerations of potential use cases, governance and funding models as well as models to extend its role to production and/or distributed environments.
Data mining of UN Comtrade through data visualizations is now a reality. SAS in collaboration with the UN Statistics Division developed "SAS Visual Analytics for UN Comtrade", which allows executing and visualizing data queries on the fly and provides real-time insights and analytics of trade data.
SAS Visual Analytics for UN Comtrade provides:
The basic edition offers unlimited, free access to a variety of interactive visualizations. Visit the SAS Visual Analytics for UN Comtrade website for more information, including several brief how-to videos. Or you can read the press release.
Comtrade Labs is a place to showcase innovative and experimental uses of UN Comtrade data. Several trade data visualization initiatives have been added to Comtrade Labs in the period January – June 2015:
The 2014 International Trade Statistics Yearbook: Volume I – Trade by Country was released on the 2nd of June 2015 (available here). This is the sixty-third edition of this publication and its objective is to inform about the latest trends in international trade, both for merchandise and services. This volume provides trade in analytical tables and graphs for each of 170 countries and areas, of which 103 with data for 2014 (covering 78.17% of world trade). The trends and composition of the trade in commodity and service category are shown over time and by main partner countries. Moreover, tables of total merchandise trade by regions and world merchandise exports by provenance and destination are also included. The figures provided in this publication are based on data directly reported by the countries to the UN Statistics Division. The data used in the yearbook are publicly available in the UN Comtrade and UN Service Trade databases.
Both the number of queries and number of downloaded records from UN Comtrade reached record highs in 2014 with 12.5 million queries (+8.2%) and 72.2 billion records (+8.1%) respectively. This increase can be attributed to several major improvements in UN Comtrade: the release of the new data extraction interface, integration of annual and monthly trade data, improved accessibility via the Comtrade Public API, and better server infrastructure (hosted by UNLB Valencia). Most strikingly, though, are the increases in number of users of UN Comtrade. Looking at long term trends, in the past decade (period of 2005-2014), number of users has grown steadily with about 11.6% annually, as show in the graph below. However, from 2013 to 2014 the users' log shows a 17.7% increase from 274,061 users in 2013 to 322,563 users in 2014. So, the efforts of the ongoing upgrade of the UN Comtrade database seem to be appreciated by additional users.
In June 2015, the Trade Statistics Branch welcomed Ms. Luba Zeifman, who joined the Statistics of International Trade in Services Section. This spring and summer, the branch has also been joined by Mr. Zhuang Yang, a visiting fellow from China, who has assisted on numerous projects. In May 2015, the Trade Statistics Branch bid a bond farewell to Mr. Michael Behrman, who was instrumental in the upgrade of the new UNComtrade user interface and several critical other IT developments.