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International Trade Statistics Conference Notes

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Morning Session: -- Location: USBC, Conference Room # 3

Country Updates Roundtable:  Collection of Trade Statistics (continued)

    1) High level organizational wide issues.

    • New Government Statistician – Geoff Bascand
      • Old advisory committee gone new board instituted and chaired by Geoff.

    2) Major project from the last minister was MIFA (Making Information Freely Available).

    • Work on 'domain plans'.
      • Identification of key statistical information needs, the current supply, and priority actions to address shortcomings and gaps – several already complete, several underway.
      • Upgrading industrial classification to ANZSIC06.

    3) Common Issues:

    • Resource Constraints.
    • Dissemination
      • Write to two specific audiences (public and professional).
      • Unsure of audience in media releases and hot off the press’s.
    • Generic Product Suite Project - Helps to identify the media releases audiences, needs, and build products to meet their needs.
    • The "willing" supply of information.
      • Board has recently signed the “Respondent Load Strategy”.
        • Demonstrates the value of statistics to respondents.
        • Reduces compliance cost.
        • Improves the collection of data from largest enterprises.
        • Increases use of administrative data.

    4) Trade specific topics:

    • The Trade team (not including Balance of Payments BOP) has 10 people.
    • Minor but Crucial tasks:
      • Full review/update of published tables.
      • Review of seasonally adjusted time series.
      • Addition of data by SITC (REV4) to monthly publications.
      • Continued Automation of process.
    • Major Projects over the past two years:
      • Creation of "trade by level of processing classification".
      • Introduction of selective editing.
      • Matching of trade data to our business frame – 6% failure/error rate.

[Back to Contents]

  • Presentation: Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Current Issues
    Presentation Powerpoint Slide

    1) Customs initiated program – “The Creditor Client Program”.

    • Allows users to submit minimum information at time of entry and remaining information later.
    • Receive total information and quantity level instead of segregated data.
    • Costly due to numerous issues that are out of their control.
    • Program on hold due to issues concerning it.
      • Delayed payments vs. payments made up front.

    2) Standardized data set containing international trade data.

    • In 2004 Customs lead a program to deliver a standardized data set containing all information on Int’l trade data.
    • Data set will be held by one government agency but used by various government agencies.
    • Put on hold in 2006 but was picked back up.
    • Program received significant funding to make changes to the Customs system and project was put together and implemented in 2005/2006.
    • Large backlash from trade industry and criticism due to system failures, which stopped cargo from being cleared.
    • Finger pointing between State and Federal government agencies for failures.
    • Program was shut down again and put back on hold.

    3) Moving of mainframe and infrastructure.

    • ABS successfully moved mainframe to a new common ABS infrastructure in 2006.
      • Used import data warehouses and generic systems to extract data.
      • Used generic interrogation tools like Discover and Blaze.
    • Issues with generic systems not translating well with the larger complex trade data sets.

    4) Major issues in the last couple of years for ABS:

    • Pricing challenges, which represent the new complexity of trade.
    • Finding the right information from the right people: brokers, exporters, contacts that could explain details of the trade transactions including companies involved.
      • Began getting information on trade data from other sources such as the Capital Expenditure Survey and Quarterly Company Profit and Sales Survey.
    • The standardized data set by itself does not offer that many benefits to businesses but efforts can be expensive to implement.
    • Issues with commodity prices and valuation of goods.

    [Back to Contents]

Lunch in Census Cafeteria

Afternoon Session: -- Location: USBC, Conference Room # 3

International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS) Concepts and Definitions Revision 3

  • Presentation: Using Non-Customs Data in Compiling U.S. Trade Data - (USBC)
    Presentation Powerpoint Slide1   Presentation Powerpoint Slide 2

    1) Non-Customs data sources

    • Stats Canada and the US/Canada data exchange.
    • Data related to data exchange.
      • Electricity flows
      • Natural gas imports
      • Railcars imports

    2) Problems leading to the US/Canada data exchange data.

    • Undercount of each countries export data.
    • Negotiations of NAFTA were plagued by data discrepancies.
    • US and Canadian data were supposed to be a mirror image but were not.

    3) Solutions for discrepancies in data.

    • 1987 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the exchange of Import data.
    • US data measured southbound trade and Canadian measured Northbound.
    • Alignments:
      • Import data expanded to satisfy partner export needs
      • Commodity classifications aligned.
      • Data release dates and times were aligned.

    4) Benefits:

    • Disputes concerning data disappear.
    • Exporters relieved of data submission burden.
    • Customs and statistical agencies able to reallocate resources.

    5) Electricity Flow issues.

    • Electricity historically included in US national accounts, as a service was included in merchandise trade data by Canada.
      • US agreed to include electricity in merchandise trade data.
      • US began using data supplied by Canada.
      • In 2007 electricity transactions to and from Canada totaled $3.7 Billion.
    • Note: We have no agreement with Mexico to collect their electricity data in the same way as we do with Canada. Electricity flows from Mexico continue to be included as a service in US trade data.

    6) Natural Gas Imports issues.

    • Natural Gas imports from Canada are incomplete per Customs reports.
    • US import figures of Canadian gas imports are significantly understated when compared with independent Canadian exports.  US did not monitor pipelines.
      • In 1990 US Census began using Canadian export data for natural gas as US import data.
      • Natural gas imports from Canada totaled $22.4 billion in 2007.

    7) Canadian Railcars issues.

    • Changes in US legislation allows entry of railcars without documentation
    • Reported imports of railcars from Canada dropped sharply.
    • Canada establishes survey of manufactures to address under coverage in its export figures.
      • As an interim solution US proposes to use Canadian survey data.
      • Imports of railcars from Canada estimated at over $500 million in 2007.
    • Note:  A similar problem may exist with Mexico but imports are minimal.

    8) Additional issues with US data for which non-customs data are used.

    • Estimates of low valued transactions (Exemption levels are $2000 for imports and $2500 for exports).
      • Approx $20 billion for imports and $25 billion for exports.
      • Makes up about 2 to 2 ½ %.
    • Estimates for small parcel shipments.
    • Foreign Military Sales.
      • Amounts to approx 3/4ths of a trillion dollars annually in US statistics.

    9) Misc. Discussions and questions

    • Bruce Walter wanted to know how other countries are using non-customs data.
    • Stats Canada use to give explanations about differences in US/Canadian data but got away from it.
    • Explanation of how the revision process between Stats Canada and the US differ.
    • Reconciliation table to translate US statistics to Canadian Statistics. The further you move away from the statistical month, the more different the data will be.
    • Major issues in regards to the quality of data due to the origin of shipment/destination, country of origin, and currency exchange rates.
    • Diane Oberg stated that we do not do a lot of editing on state data due to lack of resources.

    [Back to Contents]

  • Group Discussions: Responses to UN Proposed Revisions to IMTS Concepts and Definitions
    Presentation Powerpoint Slide  

    • Issue 1-- Coverage:
      • Australia commented that although saying they understood the points, clarification would be beneficial to ensure:
        • That the type of lease arrangements currently entered into for aircraft are addressed.
        • That goods entered for processing are treated consistently and correctly.

    • Issue 2-- Use of Change in Ownership:
      • UK mentioned categories such as: Ships, Aircraft, Satellites, Sea Products, Gas and Electricity.
      • United States mentioned that this might resolve issues around large items imported or exported for, or following refit.

    • Issue 3-- Packaged software:
      • UK wanted consistency with the definitions used for Balance of Payments to avoid double-counting between trades in goods and trade in services, and that guidelines should be extended to cover books, music, films, etc. where the same principles could be applied.
      • Canada noted that the distinction between 'Customized' and non-customized software is become more difficult to determine and requires further clarification and elaboration, whilst, it should be noted that the IMF has recently been presented with a proposal to modify the current draft of the BPM 6.  This proposal recommends the total exclusion of all software from Goods.
      • USdiscussed some fairly major concerns about software valuation and any attempt to distinguish software based on the form of licensing.
      • Australia also noted the importance of consistency with BPM6 for software treatment and a desire for treatment examples.
      • The US raised some concerns around any copyrighted material.

    • Issue 4-- Goods for processing:
      • Again, general comments that the treatment here and in BPM6 should be exclusive and consistent.

    • Issue 5-- Transactions between parent and affiliated branches
      • Generally, there seemed to be agreement that the information would be useful.
        However, concern whether the benefits outweigh the respondent burden.
      • It may be difficult to get a common use/understanding of the terms involved, e.g. Canada and US have different definitions of affiliates.

    • Issue 6-- Downloadable or otherwise electronically delivered computer software and audiovisual products.
      • Many of the same points made as for Question 3 (packaged software).
      • We disagreed on theoretical grounds (downloading as a different mode of transport).
      • We acknowledged there’s a strong case to exclude them for practical reasons of measurement. Although it may be a moot point depending on decisions surrounding services/merchandise, it may be beneficial (if the recommendation is to exclude them) to state it is being done for practical reasons.

    • Issue 7-- Asymmetric inclusions and exclusions:
      • Although agreeing to the general guideline, UK stated that there need to be exceptions, specifically, the IMTS concept has an inherent asymmetry in the CIF/FOB specification, and in some cases asymmetric recording more closely follows the movement of goods, such as airline fuel.
      • The States raised practical concerns over the impracticality of some of the implications for data collection, while we commented that it would be an artificial constraint to recommend symmetry due to the number of instances where differences in treatment of imports and exports are legitimate.

    • Issue 8-- Adding mode of transportation:
      • The majority of the comments didn’t suggest expanding the recommendations was bad.  However the practical considerations and difficulties seemed to be foremost in all of our minds when considering things such as ‘predominant mode of transport’.

    • Issue 9-- Adding imports on an FOB-type basis:
      • Real mixture of opinions, with some of us already collecting it.

    • Issue 10-- Strengthening country of consignment for imports:
      • Again, mostly practical concerns, in terms of how to collect it and the reliability of the data collected.

    • Issue 11-- Optional or recommended country of consignment for exports:
      • There was some acknowledgement of the potential value of the information, but also practical concerns.  For example, NZ raised the point that due to the timing of our merchandise trade statistics publication compared to the reference period they relate to, it is unlikely any additional useful information will be provided - that country of consignment will almost always be the same as the country of last know destination.

    • Issue 12-- Use of non-customs source and data compilation strategies:
      • UK suggested that the use of other data sources is recognized in the NCDP questionnaire, since different answers apply to different data sources.
      • US preferred that efforts be made first to improve the quality and coverage of customs data before alternative methods are explored and used to collect the trade data, and recommendations made to use non-customs sources.
      • Australia agreed that advice on practical implementation would be beneficial.

    • Issue 13-- Maintaining institution arrangements:
      • There was general agreement that MOUs regarding specific statistical requirements can be very useful.
      • The US suggested that some of the language in the current Compiler's Manual be added in IMTS Rev. 3.
      • Australia wanted it made clear that any recommendations were ideas on facilitating cooperation rather than a mandatory approach.

    • Issue 14-- Recommendations on quality of international merchandise trade statistics:
      • Only negative here was from Australia, and their point was that it should provide guidelines rather than recommendations.

    • Issue 15-- Providing reommendations on the compilations and dissemination of metadata:
      • There was mutual agreement.

    • Issue 16-- Compilation of external indices:
      • UK would encourage compilers to produce this information but do not believe it should be part of IMTS.
      • NZ agreed and suggested a separate document with recommendations on both price and volume indexes.
      • The US commented that the new IMF manual on export and import price indices covers an extensive list of topics on producing external trade price indices and that making use of this comprehensive manual to offer additional recommendations in the IMTS would be greatly beneficial.

    • Issue 17-- Compilation of seasonally adjusted data:
      • Real mixture of responses here with some saying there wouldn’t be a demand, specifically because BOP data is seasonally adjusted and there’s no need for merchandise data to be adjusted as well.
      • Any recommendation would clearly have to take demand, alternative sources of seasonally adjusted data and the appropriateness of seasonally adjusting into account.

[Back to Contents]

Evening:  Baseball - Washington Nationals vs. NY Mets

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Source: FTDWebMaster, Foreign Trade Division, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C. 20233
Created: 30 December 2008
Last modified: 10 September 2015 at 01:17:01 PM