MEDSTAT IV – Regional Workshop on Methodology for Statistics of International Trade In Merchandise

Adjusting the statistical production of the ENP-S countries to the new international standards for the production of statistics on trade in merchandises.

photoComparability in space (among countries) and in time (chronological series) is a key requirement for the relevance of the production of external trade statistics. By essence, external trade statistics measure a relation between a country and the rest of the world and thus their scope goes beyond national borders. The respect of internationally agreed methods is thus an essential challenge for the relevance of the data produced. When changes are made in the international recommendations, they must crucially be implemented by all the countries to preserve the quality of the data and improved international comparability.

Statisticians from the ENP-S countries specialised in the production of Trade in goods statistics gathered in Brussels on April 28-30, 2017, to discuss the implications of recent changes (2010) in the international standards introduced by the Statistical Department of the United Nations (UNSD). One expert from the UNSD participated in the meeting to present the major modifications made in methods and concepts, to clarify operational aspects linked to the application of these changes and to answer to the specific questions raised by the ENP-S countries.

Several recommendations were made by the participants at the end of the workshop to improve the quality of their work and to design and to implement national action plans in this field of statistics. Among the issues that should be given more attention in the future are, among others, the following:

  • Comparing the exports of a country to another one and the import of this second country from the first one is an excellent exercise to identify the discrepancies and shortfalls in the production of external trade statistics. In a perfect world these two estimates should be equal but this is never the case. However, the causes of the differences must be investigated and clearly identified through “mirror exercise” called asymmetry studies. The results of the studies help correcting and adjusting data and improve their production. The workshop concluded that these studies, already carried out in the ENP-S countries with the help of the project, should be multiplied and extended to trade in services,
  • A part of external trade escape to the statisticians because it is either the result of informal or illegal activities or the consequence of measurement conventions. This part may be significant in some of the Mediterranean countries. The workshop was the occasion to exchange practices and experiences in this area, some concrete solutions being shared among the participants,
  • The globalisation of the world economy brings new challenges for external trade statistics. In an environment where the economies are inter-connected, flows of goods, of services and of investments between them multiply and concern an extended scope of activities, some of them being new and innovative. The workshop helped the participants in better understanding the challenges ahead,
  • External trade data are intensively used but they are also very complex to produce. They involve various administrations in addition to the statistical offices such as the Customs, line-ministries and central bank. The monitoring of the quality of the data is thus a key factor to ensure the consistency of the collaboration among these various actors. The workshop discussed the issue and agreed that more efforts should be done at the national level to develop and to share quality monitoring
    frameworks for external trade statistics.

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Auteur : Siska Cahyati

BRIEF DESCRIPTION The MEDSTAT IV project provides expertise and technical support to promote the harmonisation of statistics in line with EU and international standards in 6 domains: business register and business, trade and balance of payments, energy, labour market, migration and transport). It follows on the previous phase implemented over the period 2010-2013. Countries covered: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia (cooperation with Syria is suspended).

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