Description of the Foreign Trade Statistics Program
Merchandise Trade Statistics
IntroductionSource of InformationExportsImportsCoverageGeneralExportsDomestic ExportsForeign ExportsImportsBonded WarehousesForeign Trade ZonesAmerican Goods Returned After Processing And/Or AssemblyGeneral ImportsImports for ConsumptionStatistical MonthMerchandise Trade BalanceSeasonal AdjustmentConstant Dollar AdjustmentValuationCustoms Import ValueImport ChargesC.I.F. Import ValueDutiable Value of imports and Calculated DutyF.A.S. Export Value (Excluding Exports to Canada)U.S. Exports to CanadaCommodity ClassificationsSchedule BHarmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated for Statistical Reporting Purposes (HTSUSA)Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)End Use Commodity CategoryAgricultural and Nonagricultural CommoditiesAdvanced Technology ProductsCountry DesignationsCountry ClassificationExport Country of DestinationImport Country of OriginStatistical PresentationQuantity and Shipping WeightCustoms DistrictsDistrict and Port ClassificationDistrict of ExportationImport District of EntryImport District of UnladingStatistical PresentationSpecial DistrictsState StatisticsLow-Valued StatisticsExportsImportsTransportation StatisticsMethod of TransportationTypes of Vessel ServiceIntransit ShipmentsU.S. Trade With Puerto Rico and U.S. PosessionsSource of InformationCoverageTrade with Foreign CountriesSources of ErrorCarryoverEstimated Calculated DutyShipments Not Classified by CommodityComparison of Commodity DataCountry DesignationQuantityCustoms DistrictState DataRevisions to the StatisticsSources of Further Information About the Foreign trade StatisticsINTRODUCTION
This description covers all phases of the foreign trade statistics
program and may contain portions not pertinent to this report.
SOURCE OF INFORMATIONExports
Information on U.S. exports of merchandise from the U.S. to all
countries, except Canada, is compiled from copies of Shipper's Export
Declarations (SEDs) and SED data from qualified exporters, forwarders,
or carriers. Copies of SED's are required to be filed with Customs
officials at the port of export. The SED is unique among Census Bureau
forms since it is not sent to respondents soliciting responses as in
the case of surveys. The U.S. Customs Service initially collects the
SED at the port of export and subsequently transmits it to the Census
Bureau. Each SED represents a shipment of one or more kinds of
merchandise from one exporter to one foreign importer on a single
carrier. Filing the SED is mandatory under Chapter 9, Title 13, United
States Code. Qualified exporters, forwarders, or carriers submit SED
data by automated means directly to the Bureau of the Census.
The United States is substituting Canadian import statistics for U.S.
exports to Canada in accordance with a 1987 Memorandum of Understanding
signed by the Census Bureau, U.S. Customs Service, Canadian Customs,
and Statistics Canada. Similarly, under this Memorandum of
Understanding, Canada is substituting U.S. import statistics for
Canadian exports to the United States. This data exchange includes only
U.S. exports destined for Canada and does not include shipments
destined for third countries by routes passing through Canada or
shipments of certain grains and oilseeds to Canada for storage prior to
exportation to a third country. These shipments are reported on and
compiled from SED's.
Department of Defense Military Assistance Program Grant-Aid shipments
being transported as Department of Defense cargo are reported directly
to the Bureau of the Census by the Department of Defense.
Published information on U.S. imports of merchandise is compiled
primarily from automated data submitted through the U.S. Customs'
Automated Commercial System. Data are compiled also from import entry
summary forms, warehouse withdrawal forms and Foreign Trade Zone
documents as required by law to be filed with the U.S. Customs Service.
Data on imports of electricity and natural gas from Canada are obtained
from Canadian sources.
The official U.S. import and export statistics reflect both government
and nongovernment shipments of merchandise between foreign countries
and the U.S. Customs Territory (the 50 States, District of Columbia,
and Puerto Rico), U.S. Foreign Trade Zones, and the U.S. Virgin
Islands, without regard to whether or not a commercial transaction is
involved. In general, the statistics record the physical movement of
merchandise between the United States and foreign countries.
The statistics used to compile the merchandise trade balance exclude
the following types of transactions:
United States trade with U.S. possessions, trade between U.S.
possessions, and trade between U.S. possessions and foreign countries
(except Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).
Merchandise shipped in transit through the United States from one
foreign country to another.
Shipments to the U.S. Armed Forces, including post exchanges, for
their own use, as well as U.S. merchandise returned by the U.S. Armed
Forces for their own use.
Monetary gold and silver.
Issued monetary coins (in current circulation) of all component
Bunker fuels and other supplies and equipment for use on departing
vessels, planes, or other carriers engaged in foreign trade.
Shipments of furniture, equipment and supplies to U.S. government
agencies as well as such merchandise when returned to the United
Imports of articles repaired under warranty.
Some other transactions not considered to be of statistical
importance, such as shipments of personal and household effects of
travelers and certain temporary exports and imports.
Exports measure the total physical movement of merchandise out of the
United States to foreign countries whether such merchandise is exported
from within the U.S. Customs territory or from a U.S. Customs bonded
warehouse or a U.S. Foreign Trade Zone. The following are examples of
some types of shipments which are included in the statistics but are of
such a nature that their inclusion merits separate mention:
Department of Defense Military Assistance Program Grant-Aid
shipments under the Foreign Assistance Act.
Foreign military sales.
Shipments of commodities for economic assistance under the Foreign
Assistance Act. (Totals for exports under this program are published
quarterly or as they become available.)
Shipments of agricultural commodities under P.L. 480 (Agricultural
Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954) as amended, and related
laws. (Totals for exports under this program are published as the data
become available from the Department of Agriculture. Additional
information may be obtained from the Economic Research Service of the
Department of Agriculture.)
Sales of U.S. vessels to purchasers in foreign countries.
Satellites launched by U.S. space vehicles limited to: (1) foreign
origin, and/or; (2) launched on behalf of international organizations.
Exports of domestic merchandise include commodities which are grown,
produced or manufactured in the United States, and commodities of
foreign origin which have been changed in the United States, including
U.S. Foreign Trade Zones, from the form in which they were imported, or
which have been enhanced in value by further manufacture in the United
Foreign Exports (Re-exports)
Exports of foreign merchandise (re-exports), consist of commodities of
foreign origin which have entered the United States for consumption or
into Customs bonded warehouses or U.S. Foreign Trade Zones, and which,
at the time of exportation, are in substantially the same condition as
Imports of merchandise include commodities of foreign origin as well as
goods of domestic origin returned to the United States with no change
in condition or after having been processed and/or assembled in other
countries. (See discussion of American Goods Returned After Processing
And/Or Assembly below).
For statistical purposes, imports are classified by the type of
Merchandise entered for immediate consumption. ("duty free"
merchandise and merchandise on which duty is paid on arrival)
Merchandise withdrawn for consumption from Customs bonded
warehouses, and U.S. Foreign Trade Zones.
Merchandise entered into Customs bonded warehouses and U.S. Foreign
Trade Zones from foreign countries.
Bonded warehouses are authorized by U.S. Customs for storage or
manufacturing of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the
goods are removed into Customs Territory. These goods are not subject
to duties if reshipped to foreign points.
Foreign Trade Zones
Foreign Trade Zones are enclosed areas, operated as public utilities,
under control of U.S. Customs with facilities for handling, storing,
manipulating, manufacturing, and exhibiting goods. The merchandise may
be exported, destroyed, or sent into Customs territory from the zone,
in the original package or otherwise. It is subject to Customs duties
if sent into Customs territory, but not if reshipped to foreign points.
American Goods Returned After Processing and/or Assembly
Domestically produced goods are shipped from the United States to other
countries for processing and/or assembly and then returned to this
country. Imports containing U.S. content which qualify for special
duty-free treatment on the U.S. portion fall into the following groups:
Articles of metal manufactured in the United States, which were
exported for further processing abroad and returned to the United
States for more processing.
Textile articles assembled abroad and entered under a Special Access
Program or Special Regime.
Articles assembled abroad from components produced in the United
States, except textile articles entered under a Special Access Program
or Special Regime.
Separate statistics are available on American goods returned after
processing and/or assembly abroad.
"General Imports" measure the total physical arrivals of
merchandise from foreign countries, whether such merchandise enters
consumption channels immediately or is entered into bonded warehouses
or Foreign Trade Zones under Customs custody.
Imports for Consumption
"Imports for Consumption" measure the total of merchandise that
has physically cleared through Customs either entering consumption
channels immediately or entering after withdrawal for consumption from
bonded warehouses under Customs custody or from Foreign Trade Zones.
Many countries use the term "special imports" to designate
statistics compiled on this basis.
The month of importation is the month in which the U.S. Customs Service
releases the merchandise to the importer.
The month of exportation is based on the date when the merchandise
leaves the United States. (For vessel or air shipments, it is the date
when the carrier departs or is cleared from the port of export.)
MERCHANDISE TRADE BALANCE
The merchandise trade balance represents the difference between U.S.
exports based on f.a.s values and U.S. general imports based on Customs
values. (See discussion of Valuation below.) This balance corresponds
to a measurement of the international payments or credit flows
resulting from the physical movement of goods between the U.S. and
foreign countries. Monthly balances are based on seasonally adjusted
The Census Bureau is seasonally adjusting the merchandise trade data at
the most detailed end-use level possible. These detailed data are then
summed to the 1-digit level for release with the monthly merchandise
The seasonally adjusted data are also provided to the Bureau of
Economic Analysis (BEA) for use in compiling the quarterly National
Income and Product Accounts (NIPAS). The BEA supplements these data in
the NIPAs with quarterly adjustments for six of the end-use categories
which exhibit seasonality on a quarterly basis but not on a monthly
The 1-digit level end-use categories provide data for the following
broad aggregates: (1) Foods, feeds, and beverages ; (2) Industrial
supplies and materials; (3) Capital goods, except automotives; (4)
Automotive vehicles, parts and engines; (5) Consumer goods (nonfood),
except auto; and (6) Other merchandise. This seasonal adjustment
procedure is designed to reflect seasonal patterns at the most detailed
commodity levels. The adjustment is made at that end-use commodity
level for which significant stable seasonality is identified.
The use of the end-use commodity classification system for seasonal
adjustment ensures methodological consistency with the quarterly
adjusted balance of trade data published by the Bureau of Economic
Analysis (BEA) and reflects the BEA coding descriptions which combine
data into broad categories based upon principal uses of the
The Summary of U.S. Export and Import Merchandise Trade (FT 900) for
each month includes revisions for carryover to the prior month's
aggregate unadjusted and seasonally adjusted (current and constant
dollar) export, import and trade balance figures as well as to the
end-use totals. These revisions do not appear in other foreign trade
Tables of the seasonal factors are available free of charge from the
Foreign Trade Division. Historical data as well as the detailed
unadjusted and adjusted data are available on a cost basis on either
hard copy or diskette.
CONSTANT DOLLAR ADJUSTMENT
Effective with January 1990 statistics, the Census Bureau is
publishing, on an experimental basis, seasonally adjusted merchandise
trade data on a constant dollar basis (1987=100). This is a requirement
of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Publication of
these additional data improves the ability of users to examine trends
in import and export volumes. Because merchandise trade is volatile,
cumulations of data over at least a three-month period are recommended
in order to identify underlying trends.
These data are adjusted for price change using monthly deflators
developed in accordance with the deflators used in the National Income
and Product Accounts (NIPA) published by the Bureau of Economic
Analysis (BEA). These deflators are based upon price indexes and
deflators produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, BEA, and other
sources. All series are adjusted at the lowest possible end-use level.
(See discussion of End Use Commodity Category under Commodity
Contacts for further information on:
Adjustments to merchandise trade data for seasonality and
Special Projects Branch
Bureau of the Census
Washington, DC 20233
NIPA and the deflators used by BEA:
National Income and Wealth Division
of Economic Analysis
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, DC 20230
BLS International Price Indexes:
Division of International Prices
U.S. Department of Labor
VALUATIONCustoms Import Value
The Customs value is the value of imports as appraised by the U.S.
Customs Service in accordance with the legal requirements of the Tariff
Act of 1930, as amended. This value is generally defined as the price
actually paid or payable for merchandise when sold for exportation to
the United States, excluding U.S. import duties, freight, insurance,
and other charges incurred in bringing the merchandise to the United
States. The term "price actually paid or payable" means the total
payment (whether direct or indirect, and exclusive of any costs,
charges, or expenses incurred for transportation, insurance, and
related services incident to the international shipment of the
merchandise from the country of exportation to the place of importation
in the United States) made, or to be made, for imported merchandise by
the buyer to, or for the benefit, of the seller. In the case of
transactions between related parties, the relationship between buyer
and seller should not influence the Customs value.
In those instances where assistance was furnished to a foreign
manufacturer for use in producing an article which is imported into the
United States, the value of the assistance is required to be included
in the value reported for the merchandise. Such "assists" include
both tangible and intangible assistance, such as machinery, tools, dies
and molds, blue prints, copyrights, research and development, and
engineering and consulting services. If the value of these
"assists" is identified and separately reported, it is subtracted
from the value during statistical processing. However, where it is not
possible to isolate the value of "assists", they are included. In
these cases the unit values may be increased due to the inclusion of
The import charges represent the aggregate cost of all freight,
insurance, and other charges (excluding U.S. import duties) incurred in
bringing the merchandise from alongside the carrier at the port of
exportation in the country of exportation and placing it alongside the
carrier at the first port of entry in the United States. In the case of
overland shipments originating in Canada or Mexico, such costs include
freight, insurance, and all other charges, costs and expenses incurred
in bringing the merchandise from the point of origin (where the
merchandise begins its journey to the United States) in Canada or
Mexico to the first port of entry.
C.I.F. Import Value
The c.i.f. (cost, insurance, and freight) value represents the landed
value of the merchandise at the first port of arrival in the United
States. It is computed by adding "Import Charges" to the
"Customs Value" (see definitions above) and therefore excludes
U.S. import duties.
Dutiable Value of Imports and Calculated Duty
The "dutiable value" represents, in general, the Customs value of
foreign merchandise imported into the United States which is subject to
duty. The "Calculated duty" represents the estimated import
duties collected. Estimated duties are calculated based on the
applicable rate(s) of duty as shown in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule
of the United States Annotated for Statistical Reporting Purposes. See
Section II (Reference Aids) of this Guide for a list of rate provision
codes which indicate the free or dutiable status of merchandise
imported into the United States.
F.A.S. Export Value (Excluding Exports to Canada)
The f.a.s. (free alongside ship) value is the value of exports at the
U.S. seaport, airport, or border port of export, based on the
transaction price, including inland freight, insurance, and other
charges incurred in placing the merchandise alongside the carrier at
the U.S. port of exportation. The value, as defined, excludes the cost
of loading the merchandise aboard the exporting carrier and also
excludes freight, insurance, and any charges or transportation costs
beyond the port of exportation.
U.S. Exports to Canada
The use of Canada's import data to produce U.S. export data requires
some adjustments to make the two comparable.
U.S. exports are valued at the U.S. seaport, airport, or border port of
export in the U.S. and include inland freight charges. Canadian imports
are valued at the point of origin in the U.S. and do not include inland
freight to the U.S. port of exit. To compensate, Canada adds an
estimated 4.5 percent of the value to each transaction to cover inland
freight (except for shipments where freight is not a consideration,
e.g., large aircraft, vessels and drilling platforms.)
Average monthly exchange rates as quoted by the Federal Reserve Board
are applied to adjust the Canadian import data to U.S. dollars. A
formula for converting U.S. total exports to corresponding Canadian
imports is provided in the initial release of the statistics (FT 900)
along with the monthly conversion rate.
COMMODITY CLASSIFICATIONSSchedule B
The export statistics are initially collected and compiled in terms of
approximately 8,000 commodity classifications in Schedule B,
Statistical Classification of Domestic and Foreign Commodities Exported
from the United States. Schedule B is a U.S. Bureau of the Census
publication and is based on the Harmonized Commodity Description and
Coding System (Harmonized System).
Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated for
Statistical Reporting Purposes
The import statistics are initially collected and compiled in terms of
approximately 14,000 commodity classifications in the Harmonized Tariff
Schedule of the United States Annotated for Statistical Reporting
Purposes (HTSUSA), an official publication of the U.S. International
Trade Commission. The HTSUSA is the U.S. import version of the
The United States and Canada both compile their merchandise trade
statistics in terms of the Harmonized System; however, they have
different annotations beyond the basic 6-digit codes.
Approximately 80 percent of the U.S. Schedule B export classifications
are directly comparable to Canadian import classifications. These
classifications account for 85-90 percent of the total value of U.S.
exports to Canada. Many of the remaining 20 percent of the Schedule B
classifications represent little or no trade with Canada. In these
cases, the Canada import code is recoded to a single Schedule B,
usually the class with the most trade or the residual classification
for the root 6-digit Harmonized System code.
There are some instances where the U.S. and Canadian Customs agencies
do not agree on the 6-digit Harmonized System code under which a
particular commodity or group of commodities should be classified. In
these cases each statistical agency may classify under the 6-digit code
designated by its national Customs agency. Efforts by the U.S. and
Canadian Customs agencies to align detail statistical classifications
will continue over the next several years.
In some reports the HTSUSA and Schedule B classifications are
rearranged and summarized into other classification systems as
Standard International Trade Classification (SITC-United Nations
Statistical Papers, Series M, No. 34/Rev.3).
The SITC is a statistical classification of the commodities entering
external trade designed to provide the commodity aggregates needed for
purposes of economic analysis and to facilitate the international
comparison of trade-by-commodity data.
The Harmonized System and SITC Revision 3 are interrelated. The
rearrangement of import and export data reported in terms of the
Harmonized System into the SITC allows for an additional means of
comparison between the U.S. and its trading partners in terms of
commodity classification and trade statistics.
Certain foreign trade reports present HTS and Schedule B
classifications summarized into approximately 3,000 5-digit SITC codes.
Within the SITC framework, "Manufactured Goods" includes all
products classified in groups 5 through 9.
Manufactured goods conform to the SITC sections that include chemicals
and related products, n.s.p.f.; manufactured goods classified chiefly
by material; machinery and transport equipment; miscellaneous
manufactured articles, n.s.p.f.; and commodities and transactions not
Standard Industrial Classification (SIC-Office of Management and
The rearrangement of the import and export data into a structure
related to the statistical classification of products by industry
facilitates the comparison of the U.S. import and export statistics
with data related to the domestic production and other U.S. economic
HTSUSA and Schedule B classifications are summarized into approximately
450 4-digit SIC-based Import and approximately 430 4-digit SIC-based
End Use Commodity Category
The HTSUSA and Schedule B classifications are summarized into six
principal "end-use" categories and further subdivided into about
140 broad commodity groupings. These categories are used in developing
seasonally adjusted and constant dollar totals. The concept of end-use
demand was developed for balance of payments purposes by the Bureau of
Economic Analysis. (See discussion of Seasonal Adjustment).
Agricultural and Nonagricultural Commodities
Agricultural commodities consist of nonmarine food products, natural
fibers, unmanufactured tobacco, and other farm products subject to
federal legislation such as Section 22 of the Agricultural Adjustment
Act. Some processed agricultural commodities are included if the value
added by manufacturing accounts for less than 50 percent of the final
value of shipments as reported in the latest Census of Manufactures.
Examples of processed agricultural commodities include cereal flours,
dairy products, canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, vegetable
oils, animal hides, fur pelts, wine, and beer. Textiles, leather
products, distilled beverages, forestry, and fishery products are
classified as nonagricultural commodities.
Assignments of individual HTSUSA and Schedule B classifications
generally are determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and
differ from the guidelines in the Standard Industrial Classification of
the United States (SIC).
Advanced Technology Products (ATP)
Approximately 500 of the HTSUSA and Schedule B commodity classification
codes used in reporting U.S. exports and imports are identified as
"advanced technology" codes that must meet the following
The code contains products whose technology is from a recognized
high technology field (e.g., biotechnology).
These products represent leading edge technology in that field.
Such products constitute a significant part of all items covered in
the selected classification code.
This product and commodity-based measure of advanced technology
differs from broader SIC industry-based measures which include all
commodities produced by a particular industry group, regardless of the
level of technology embodied in the commodities.
COUNTRY DESIGNATIONSCountry Classification
The names and codes of the countries of the world are listed in
Schedule C, Classification of Country and Territory Designations for
U.S. Foreign Trade Statistics, the system used for publishing both
import and export country statistics. Schedule C is arranged in
geographic order according to continents. Countries and territories are
listed in sequence within each continent, generally from north to south
and west to east. The classifications appearing in Schedule C conform
to those prescribed by the International Organization for
Standardization (ISO) and are recommended by ISO for international
exchange. Schedule C is published as a statistical annex in HTSUSA and
as a part of Schedule B.
Export Country of Destination
Country of destination for exports is the country where the goods are
to be consumed, further processed, or manufactured, as known to the
shipper at the time of exportation. If the shipper does not know the
country of ultimate destination, the shipment is credited to the last
country to which the shipper knows that the merchandise will be shipped
in the same form as when exported. (See discussion of the designation
for Unidentified Countries under Statistical Presentation below.)
Import Country of Origin
Country of origin for imports is the country where the merchandise was
grown, mined, or manufactured, in accordance with U.S. Customs
Regulations. In instances where the country of origin cannot be
determined, transactions are credited to the country of shipment.
Certain foreign trade reports show country subcodes to indicate special
tariff treatment afforded some imported articles. See Section II
(Reference Aids) of this Guide for a list of country subcodes.
Abbreviated country designations are used in lieu of complete country
names in the foreign trade program. Numerical codes are used for
automated purposes. Alphabetic abbreviations are used for published
The designation UNIDENT (Unidentified Countries) in the export
statistics, reflects shipments of certain grains and oilseeds for
storage in Canada but ultimately destined for third countries, the
specific country of ultimate destination being unknown at the time of
shipment. This is not a part of the U.S./Canada Data Exchange.
Annually, by Special Announcement, based on information supplied by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, specific country of destination
information on exports of such grains and oilseeds is published. This
designation also includes satellites launched in the United States on
behalf of international organizations.
The designation OTH CTY used in some reports represents the total for
countries from or to which imports or exports of the particular
commodity averaged less than a $50,000 per month on a cumulative
The major world areas for which foreign trade data are shown represent
individual Schedule C countries or groupings of several countries into
geographic areas or economic unions. (See Section 10 on Country
QUANTITY AND SHIPPING WEIGHTQuantity
Units of quantity shown are published in terms of the units specified
in the HTSUSA and Schedule B for each classification.
When two units of quantity are required for an item in the HTSUSA or
Schedule B, both units are shown along with the value.
Shipping weight represents the gross weight in kilograms of shipments,
including the weight of moisture content, wrappings, crates, boxes, and
containers (other than cargo vans and similar substantial outer
containers). Shipping weight information is available for shipments by
vessel and air only.
CUSTOMS DISTRICTSDistrict and Port Classification
The names and codes of the Customs districts and ports are listed in
Schedule D, Classification of U.S. Customs Districts and Ports for
Foreign Trade Statistics. The geographical limits of each district are
published in the U.S. Customs Regulations. Schedule D is published as a
statistical annex in HTSUSA and as a part of Schedule B.
District of Exportation
Vessel or air - the Customs district in which the merchandise is
loaded on the vessel or aircraft which takes the merchandise out of the
Rail, truck, pipeline, or other overland transportation - the
Customs district through which the merchandise crosses the U.S. border
into foreign territory.
Aircraft exported under their own power are credited to the Customs
district from which they are flown out of the United States.
Import District of Entry
The district in which merchandise clears Customs for entry into
consumption channels, bonded warehouses or Foreign Trade Zones.
Import District of Unlading
The district where merchandise is unloaded from the importing vessel or
Abbreviated Customs district designations are used instead of complete
names in the foreign trade program. Numerical codes are used for
automated purposes. Alphabetic abbreviations are used for published
The following types of shipments are included for statistical purposes
in special Customs districts and are not reported by geographical
location of the individual Customs district of entry or exportation:
Vessels under their own power or afloat (imports and exports)
Low-valued imports and exports (See discussion of Low-Valued
Mail shipments (exports only)
Norfolk, VA-Charleston, SC-Mobile, AL (Exports of bituminous coal).
See discussion of Customs Districts under Sources of Error.
Wilmington, NC-Savannah, GA (Exports of cotton linter pulp). See
discussion of Customs Districts under Sources of Error.
Export data by state denote the state (as reported by the exporter or
agent on the Shipper's Export Declaration) from which the merchandise
actually starts its journey to the port of export. This may not be,
necessarily, the state where the merchandise is grown, produced or
manufactured nor necessarily the actual location of the exporter. In
the case of consolidated shipments, it is the state of the commodity of
greatest value or the state of consolidation. Foreign Trade Zone
shipments are included in the U.S. Total, States/Territories total and
distributed among individual states and territories. A separate Foreign
Trade Zone total is shown for reference only.
Export statistics are fully compiled on shipments to all countries,
except Canada, where the value of commodities classified under each
individual Schedule B number is over $2,500. Value data for such
commodities valued under $2,501 are estimated for individual countries
using factors based on the ratios of low-valued shipments to individual
country totals for past periods. The estimates for low-valued shipments
are shown under a single Schedule B number and are omitted from the
statistics for the detailed commodity classifications. Shipments valued
under $2,501 to all countries, except Canada, represent slightly less
than 2.5 percent of the monthly value of U.S. exports to those
As a result of the data exchange between the U.S. and Canada, the U.S.
has adopted the Canadian import exemption level for its export
statistics on shipments to Canada. The Canadian import exemption level
is based on total value per shipment rather than value per commodity
classification line item. Prior to data exchange each month, the U.S.
furnishes Canada with a factor to convert data reported on Canadian
import documents from Canadian dollars to U.S. dollars. Line items
reported on documents where the total shipment value is the equivalent
of $900 (Can.) or more are included in the appropriate Schedule B
classifications in Chapters 1-97. Out of this group, those items valued
$2500 (U.S.) or less are combined and assigned to the special Customs
district for low value exports with no method of transportation detail.
The remaining items, i.e., those valued over $2500 (U.S.) are published
with both Customs district and method of transportation detail. Items
reported on Canadian documents having a total shipment value equivalent
to less than $900 (Can.) are published under a single Schedule B number
established for Canadian low-value shipments and certain other
shipments that Canada does not identify by kind. Such shipments
represent 2 percent of the monthly value of U.S. exports to Canada.
Import statistics are fully compiled on shipments valued over $1,250
or, under certain textile programs, for any article which must be
reported on a formal entry. Value data for shipments valued under
$1,251 and not required to be reported on formal entries are estimated
for individual countries using factors based on the ratios of
low-valued shipments to individual country totals for past periods. The
estimates for low-valued shipments are shown under a single HTS number.
They are omitted from the statistics for the individual commodity
classifications. The total value excluded represents slightly less than
1 percent of the monthly import value.
TRANSPORTATION STATISTICSMethod of Transportation
The transportation statistics are presented in terms of three
categories - vessel, air and all methods - based on the method of
transportation by which the merchandise arrived in or departed from the
United States. In some instances, shipments between the United States
and countries abroad enter or depart through Canada or Mexico. Such
shipments are recorded under the method of transportation by which they
enter or depart the United States regardless of the transportation mode
between Canada or Mexico and the country of origin or destination.
There are some differences in the coverage of these statistics,
primarily as follows:
The data for "all methods of transportation" include exports
and general imports by vessel, air, truck, rail, air mail, parcel post,
and other methods of transportation.
The data for vessel and air exports and general imports represent
waterborne and airborne shipments only (merchandise actually leaving or
arriving in the United States aboard a vessel or an aircraft).
Imports and exports of (a) vessels moving under their own power or
afloat and (b) aircraft flown into or out of the United States are
included in the "all methods" data but excluded from the vessel
and air statistics.
Mail and parcel post shipments (including those transported by
vessel or air) are included in the "all methods" data but
excluded from the vessel and air statistics.
Low-value shipments are included in the "all methods" data but
excluded from the vessel and air statistics.
Types of Vessel Service
Waterborne statistics are presented in terms of type of service: (1)
liner; (2) irregular or tramp; and (3) tanker.
Liner service is that type of service offered by a regular line
operator of vessels on berth. The itineraries and sailing schedules of
vessels in liner service are predetermined and fixed.
Irregular (or tramp) service is that type of service afforded by
vessels, other than tanker vessels, that are chartered or otherwise
hired for the carriage of goods on special voyages. Vessels in this
type of service are not on berth and their sailing schedules are not
predetermined or fixed.
Tanker vessels are primarily designed for the carriage of liquid
cargoes in bulk. All others are classified as dry cargo.
Shipments of merchandise transported in bond through the United States
en route from one foreign country to another without having been
entered as an import are called in-transit shipments. The in-transit
statistics include only inbound or outbound merchandise moving by
Vessel entrances and clearances by Customs district are published
U.S. TRADE WITH PUERTO RICO AND U.S. POSSESSIONSSource of Information
Statistics on shipments from the United States to Puerto Rico and the
Virgin Islands, and on shipments from Puerto Rico to the United States,
are compiled from information furnished on Shipper's Export
Declarations, which are required to be filed with Customs officials,
and shipments by qualified exporters who have been authorized to submit
data by automated means directly to the Bureau of the Census.
Statistics on shipments from the U.S. Virgin Islands and other U.S.
possessions to the United States are compiled from automated data
submitted through the Customs Automated Commercial System and from
import documents filed with Customs officials.
Data on shipments from the U.S. to other U.S. possessions as well as
between the possessions are not compiled.
Statistics are separately published covering shipments 1) between the
United States and Puerto Rico, 2) between the United States (including
Puerto Rico) and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 3) from other U.S.
possessions to the United States. U.S. possessions refers to those
listed in Schedule C, Classification of Country and Territory
Designations for U.S. Foreign Trade Statistics.
Previous discussions and definitions relating to the export statistics
should be applied to statistics on shipments from the United States to
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and on shipments from Puerto
Rico to the United States. Similarly, previous discussions and
definitions relating to the import statistics should be applied to
statistics on shipments from the U.S. Virgin Islands and other U.S.
possessions to the United States.
Trade with Foreign Countries
Puerto Rico is a Customs district within the U.S. Customs territory,
and its trade with foreign countries is included in the U.S. export and
The U.S. export and import statistics include merchandise trade between
the U.S. Virgin Islands and foreign countries even though the Virgin
Islands of the United States are not officially a part of the U.S.
Data on trade of other U.S. outlying possessions with foreign countries
is not compiled by the the United States.
SOURCES OF ERROR
The procedures used to compile the statistics include processing checks
designed to protect the accuracy of the statistics to the fullest
Export and import figures are subject to the possibility of errors
which may arise from incorrect reporting and/or processing of
information as to commodity classification, net quantity, value, and
other statistical factors, month of inclusion (see Carryover below),
and errors which may result from the estimation of certain shipments.
(See the explanation of low-valued data above.)
Carryover is the term used to identify the trade records received
and/or processed too late for inclusion with records for that
There are several causes of carryover. Among them is the Customs
procedure which allows importers to file import documentation up to ten
workdays after the date of release of the merchandise. Processing
problems such as rejection of a shipment because the data failed to
meet certain edit criteria established to protect the accuracy of the
statistics also contribute to carryover. The current carryover rate is
0.5 percent for exports and 2.5 percent for imports.
Each month, in the Summary of U.S. Export and Import Merchandise Trade
(FT 900) only, the total import, export and trade balance figures as
well as the "end-use" totals for the prior month are adjusted for
carryover. SITC and country detail data are not revised.
Estimated Calculated Duty
Estimates of calculated duty do not necessarily reflect amounts of duty
paid and should, therefore, be used with caution. The figures may be
somewhat overstated as a result of the inclusion in the figures of some
U.S. products returned after processing or assembly abroad for which a
portion of the value is eligible for duty free consideration. In cases
where articles are dutiable at various or special rates, a dutiable
value is shown but no duty is calculated. Estimates of calculated duty
are understated to the extent that these situations exist.
Shipments Not Classified by Commodity
Single classifications are provided for the following shipments
without commodity detail:
Exports to all countries, except Canada, valued under $2,501.
Exports to Canada, reported on Canadian documents having a total
shipment value less than $900 (Can.).
Exports to all countries, except Canada, valued $2,501 through
$10,000 which are reported on Shipper's Export Declarations without a
valid Schedule B number. (The U.S./Canada data exchange allows that
portion of the value formerly shown under this classification as
exports to Canada to be distributed among the appropriate commodity
Exports of goods of Canadian origin being returned to Canada.
Exports of goods of other foreign origin being returned to Canada.
Import transactions valued under $1,251 (and not requiring formal
Classifications other than those listed above exclude the
information shown under these provisions and are undercounted to the
extent that such shipments are made.
Comparison of Commodity Data
The omission of a commodity number from certain reports does not
necessarily mean that there were no exports or imports of the commodity
during the month. It is possible that some shipments may not be
classified by commodity (see discussion above).
Data users are cautioned that comparison of U.S. exports with
corresponding Canadian import data at detailed commodity levels is not
recommended. Corrections, differences in classification interpretation
and in editing and processing environments make these comparisons
In addition, the comparison of data on U.S. exports after 1989 with
data for prior years at levels other than for total exports and exports
by country may show distortion. These distortions may result from the
availability of detailed data for undocumented exports to Canada which
were previously estimated only at the total level. Distortions also may
result from the changeover to the Harmonized System effective with the
January 1989 statistics.
When publication of data under a particular commodity classification
causes disclosure of an individual firm's transactions on a world-wide
basis, it is sometimes necessary to combine several classifications
into one. Even though the detail is reported it is published under the
combined classification, usually a pseudo classification.
Statistics tend to be overcounted for shipments to transshipment
countries such as Hong Kong and the Netherlands and undercounted for
other countries. Further, since the export statistics reflect the
country of destination only as known to the exporter at time of
shipment, the statistics will not reflect any further distributions of
the merchandise made after the shipment leaves the United States.
When the statistics disclose a particular company's shipments of
a particular commodity to or from a specific country, it may be
necessary to suppress quantity data. Similarly, when disclosure occurs
on a world-wide basis, it may be necessary to suppress quantity data
for shipments of one commodity to or from all countries.
Statistics for two or more Customs Districts may be combined and
published under an arbitrary designation or shipping weight may be
excluded from an individual Customs District as a solution to
disclosure situations. Consequently, statistics for individual ports
may be understated due to the suppression of the weight of the affected
The term "Not Specified" represents instances where
exporters have reported more than one state of origin or where the
designation "US" has been reported. Transactions originating in a
Foreign Trade Zone for which no number or State designation is reported
also are included under "Not Specified".
Other designations are "Re-exports", "Estimated Shipments,"
and "Unreported". Those shipments designated as
"Re-exports" (foreign exports) are exports having a foreign
country as the point of origin. The "Unreported" designation
includes those cases where either no state of origin was reported or an
undecipherable abbreviation was reported. See the section entitled
"Low-Valued Statistics" for a discussion of such shipments.
REVISIONS TO THE STATISTICS
Revisions to the import and export statistics occur in several ways.
Monthly, the aggregate import, export and trade balance figures as well
as the "end-use" totals for the prior month are adjusted for
carryover (data received and/or processed too late for inclusion in the
proper month). These revisions will appear only in the Summary of U.S.
Export and Import Merchandise Trade (FT 900).
Revisions to the import and export statistics in the form of errata are
issued quarterly and are available free of charge upon request. These
errata provide corrections to statistics issued in prior months'
foreign trade reports. The data are presented by statistical month in
commodity number arrangement only. The revisions are shown in commodity
classification by country by Customs district order as net amounts to
be added to or subtracted from the previously issued statistics.
Shipments by all methods of transportation combined are reflected.
There are no separate data for shipments by vessel or by air.
Annually, the Bureau of the Census publishes revised merchandise trade
statistics for the prior year. These revisions include import and
export data adjusted to eliminate carryover (that small portion of the
monthly statistics that arrives too late for inclusion in the
transaction month). Reflected also in these statistics are the
application of quarterly errata and other corrections to the published
The initial release of the statistics (FT 900) and certain reports
include special announcements as warranted to call attention to the
discovery of large or significant errors and to provide information on
the appropriate data corrections and program changes.
The Census Bureau receives revisions from Canada, however, our process
does not permit corrections to detail for data previously published.
Therefore, the Bureau will make corrections for prior period
transactions as changes to the cumulative-to-date total for U.S.
exports to Canada.
SOURCES OF FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE FOREIGN TRADE STATISTICS
Supplementary information and explanations of interest to users of
foreign trade statistics (such as notices of changes in statistical
procedures, and so forth) are included as special announcements in
current issues of the statistical publications. Reports providing
additional detail compiled but not published may be obtained on a cost
Copies of foreign trade statistics are available for public
reference use at various International Trade Administration district
offices, Census Regional Offices, and at some U.S. Customs Service
offices. Since the distribution of foreign trade material varies among
offices, inquiries regarding the availability of particular types of
data should be made to:
Trade Data Services Branch
Foreign Trade Division
Bureau of the Census
Room 2179, Federal Office Building #3
Washington, DC 20233
(Located at Suitland, MD)