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USATrade Online Technical Documentation



The data in this release are compiled from the U.S. import and export merchandise trade statistics. To maintain confidentiality, the Census Bureau applies statistical procedures to protect the identity of any business or individual. The data in this release contain nonsampling error but do not contain sampling error. Data users who create their own estimates using data from USA Trade Online tables should cite the Census Bureau as the source of the original data only. For the full technical documentation, including definitions of terms and port data quality statements, see below.

Nonsampling Error

The data in this release are a complete enumeration of documentation collected by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and are not subject to sampling error. Quality assurance procedures are performed at every stage of collection, processing and tabulation of the information. The data are still subject to nonsampling errors, which include reporting errors, undocumented shipments, timeliness, data capture errors, and errors in low value estimation. For more information on these types of errors please see the Information on Goods and Services section of the FT900 - U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, page 26. https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/current_press_release/explain.txt

In addition to the reporting errors that affect the general merchandise trade statistics, there are reporting errors that specifically affect data tabulated by port. In general, the businesses or individuals that report the data may not be the same individuals who physically convey the shipments. This can lead to inaccurate information about where a shipment enters or exits the United States and how it is transported. The U.S. Census Bureau (Census Bureau) quality assurance procedures include checking that reported ports are valid CBP ports and performing relational checks between the ports and the method of transportation. In the future, the Census Bureau is exploring obtaining transportation information directly from the manifest, as reported by the carrier of the goods.

The Census Bureau recommends that data users incorporate this information into their analyses, as nonsampling error could impact the conclusions drawn from the results.

Data Quality

The CBP assigns official ports and determines the type and direction of trade that is conducted at that port. In some cases, a port may receive imports but no exports, or vice versa.

The Census Bureau is substituting Canadian import statistics for U.S. exports to Canada. In accordance with this data exchange, Canada requires its importers to report the U.S. port of export (see definitions of terms). However, Canada does limited edit checks of this field, which can lead to inaccurate information collected for exports to Canada.

Containerized import shipments for Foreign Trade Zones are not collected by CBP and as such are not included in this release.

State export data are based on the state of origin of movement. For certain shipments that are consolidated, the state of origin may be misrepresented. More information on the limitations of export state data can be found at https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/aip/elom.html.

In the Census port-level trade data, the air/vessel/overland value will not necessarily equal the total value at airports/vessel ports/overland ports, respectively. For airports, Census classifies some shipments under non-air methods of transportation (i.e. passenger hand carried). At seaports, Census accepts any reported method of transportation and CBP maintains edits that check the port and transportation relationship. Thus the reporting and collection of data are subject to error, so shipments by other methods of transportation may appear. Trade data for overland ports may include air value because CBP clears pilots at local airstrips and also because of reporting errors.

The following types of shipments are included for statistical purposes in special CBP port groupings and are not reported by their geographical location: Vessels under their own power or afloat (imports and exports), Low valued imports and exports, Mail shipments (exports only), Norfolk, VA Charleston, SC Mobile, AL (Exports of bituminous coal), Wilmington, NC Savannah, GA (Exports of cotton linter pulp).


The Census Bureau has modified or suppressed some data in this release to protect confidentiality. Title 13 United States Code, Section 9, prohibits the Census Bureau from publishing results in which an individual's or business' data can be identified. For more information on how the Census Bureau protects the confidentiality of data, see the disclosure limitation topics listed below as appropriate.

Disclosure Limitation

Disclosure limitation is the process for protecting the confidentiality of data. A disclosure of data occurs when published statistical information identifies either an individual or business that has provided information under a pledge of confidentiality. The techniques used by the Census Bureau to protect confidentiality in tabulations vary, depending on the type of data.

To limit disclosure, statistics for two or more CBP ports may be combined and published under an arbitrary designation, or shipping weight or value may be excluded from an individual CBP port. In addition, value and shipping weight for a commodity may be placed in separate ports. Consequently, statistics for individual ports may be understated or overstated due to the suppression of the weight or value of the affected commodities.

Definition of Terms

  • Port

    • Imports: Port of Unlading - The port where merchandise is unloaded from the importing vessel or aircraft. It is not necessarily the same port the shipment clears CBP. For overland shipments, they are one and the same.

    • Exports: Port of Export - The CBP port where the merchandise is loaded on the vessel or aircraft which takes the merchandise out of the country. For other overland transportation, the port through which the merchandise crosses the U.S. border into a foreign country.

  • Commodity

    • Imports: Six digits of the commodity classification in 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 an import version of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (Harmonized System).

    • Exports: Six digits of the commodity classification in Schedule B, Statistical Classification of Domestic and Foreign Commodities Exported from the United States. The Schedule B is a U. S. Census Bureau publication and is based on the Harmonized System.


    • The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) provides a consistent industry classification system for economic analysis across the three North American Free Trade Agreement partners - Canada, Mexico and the United States. The structure of NAICS is hierarchical. The first two digits of the code designate the sector that represents one of 20 general categories of economic activities. The third digit designates the sub-sector, the fourth digit designates the industry group, the fifth digit designates the NAICS industry, and the sixth digit designates the national industry.

  • Import Types

    • General: 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.

    • 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.

  • Export Types

    • Domestic: 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 States.

    • Foreign: 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 when imported.

  • Import Value

    • Customs Value: The Customs 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 U.S.

    • C.I.F. 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 the Customs Value (defined above) to 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.

  • Export Value

    • Exports are valued on a free alongside ship (FAS) basis, which reflects transaction price including inland freight, insurance and other charges incurred in placing the merchandise alongside the ship at the port of export.

  • Country

    • Imports: Country of Origin - The country where the merchandise was grown, mined, or manufactured, in accordance with CBP Regulations.

    • Exports: Country of Destination - The country where the goods are to be consumed, further processed, or manufactured as known to the shipper at the time of exportation.

  • State

    • Exports: State of Origin - The state from which the merchandise starts its journey to the port of export. Whenever shipments are consolidated, the state of origin represents the consolidate point.

  • Method of Transportation:

    • The method of transportation by which the merchandise is imported or exported. The possible methods are air, vessel or other.

  • Containerized Shipment:

    • Shipment transported in any van-type container.

  • Shipping Weight:

    • 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 non low-valued shipments by air and vessel only.



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Related Party Database Application:
Time series RELATED PARTY data for specific commodities and countries.

- Online Order Form
- FTD DropBox
- Merchandise Trade Downloads

NEW Schedule B Search Engine:
It's new. It's flexible. It has more options.

- Get the basics!
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Source: FTDWebMaster, Foreign Trade Division, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C. 20233
Created: 21 November 2005
Last modified: 20 March 2024 at 08:45:31 AM