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There are many valid reasons why the reported exports of one country may not coincide with the reported imports of its partner country. This is especially true if one looks at the detailed commodity level. The data are reported independently by administrations of two different countries.

Reasons for the differences found relate to the very nature of the trading process, such as:

  • Imports are CIF and exports are FOB;
  • Time lag between exports and imports, goods leaving country A in 2020 might only reach country B in 2021;
  • Goods going via third countries;
  • Goods entering Customs warehousing for several months;
  • Goods being classified differently;
  • Use of country of consignment instead of country of origin or final destination;
  • Countries having different trade systems (General versus Special Trade System);
  • Goods passing through industrial processing zones may or may not be recorded by the exporting country

The international recommendations with respect to partner country attribution are: "Country of Origin" for imports and "Country of Final Destination" for exports. If all goes well these should match. As mentioned before, there are many reasons why imports and exports end up being different. In general, one could state that import data are usually closer to the international recommendation (Country of Origin ) than export data (Country of Final Destination) because (1) Final destination may not be known at time of export, and (2) Country of Origin is more closely verified due to Tariff regulations.

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