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Statistics in Focus: Statistics and Trade

Thursday 14th January, 2021
Source: Thursday Business Guardian
Author: Central Statistical Office

Trade statistics refer to information relating to all goods which add to, or subtract from the total material resources of a country by entering its borders (imports) or leaving them (exports). These goods are physical items whose ownership rights can be clearly determined and whose economic ownership can be passed from one to another by engaging in transactions. The value of international trade in goods (tangible) significantly exceeds that of trade in services (intangible); some services are difficult to trade across economic territories. The largest global players for international trade are the European Union (EU and the United States of America (USA).

The Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) is the United Nations’ classification system used for external trade that allows for international comparisons of commodities and manufactured goods. The categories are Food, Beverages and Tobacco; Raw Materials; Mineral Fuels; Animal and Vegetable Oils; Chemicals; Manufactured Goods; Machinery and Transport and Other Commodities.

These items are further categorised into subsections, divisions, and groups.

The Classification of Products by Activity (CPA) provides information on the primary function of the origin of the goods. Therefore products of agriculture, forestry and fishing; food items; or textiles are included here. The Standard Goods Classification for Transport Statistics (NST) is the system used to identify the modes of transport -road, rail, internal waterways, sea- used to move goods across borders.

In Trinidad and Tobago, Customs and Excise is required by law to collect and accurate trade related information and statistics and provide to the Central Statistical Office (CSO) for compilation, analysis and publication. Basic data related to trade transactions between countries illustrates the reporting country and the partner country; the reference period; the  direction of the trade flow -export or import; the classification of the goods; the product’s value and quantity; and the mode of transport.

Trade statistics is used to:-

  • inform multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations,
  • evaluate a country’s economic position;
  • determine balance of payments and national accounts;
  • help businesses conduct market research,
  • help researchers study the effects of trade on various aspects of the economy, and more.

The two trade systems used in the compilation of international trade statistics are called the general trade system and the special trade system.

The general trade system is used when the economic territory and the statistical territory of a country coincides so that all goods entering and leaving are classified as imports and exports.

The special trade system is a narrower concept and is used when the statistical territory comprises only a particular part of the economic territory. This means that certain flows of goods are not included in either the import or export statistics of a country.

The statistical summary of the transactions of a country with the rest of the world is called the balance of payments. It records all economic transactions during a given period of time involving the change in ownership between residents and non-residents of a country.

Balance of payments consists of:

  • Current account - which covers goods, services, primary and secondary incomes
  • Capital account - which involves the receipt or payment of capital transfer such as non-life insurance claims, and the acquisition/disposal of non-produced, non-financial assets such as patents
  • Financial account - which details all transactions associated with changes of ownership in the foreign financial assets and liabilities of an economy

The Balance of Payments Report (BOP) is published annually and prepared by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with the CSO.

In 2016, the Central Statistical Office embarked on a project which aims to make trade statistics widely available in Trinidad and Tobago. Eurotrace is now being used in conjunction with Custom and Excise’ own statistical collection system.

Eurotrace is an open source software used for the collection, compilation, and dissemination of external trade data at national and regional levels. It can be customized to fit national requirements and most types of statistics. Access was first provided to policy makers to facilitate data-driven decisions; the business community to support sound business practices; and tertiary and research institutions for academic research. Access to the wider public, the second stage enabled the development of entrepreneurial ideas and encourage economic growth. 

This initiative promotes Trinidad and Tobago’s National Development Strategy, Vision 2030, under Theme 4: Building Globally Competitive Businesses along with Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals: Decent work and Economic Growth.