External trade of goods

0. Registration entry for subjects

0.1 Name

External trade of goods

0.2 Subject area

External trade

0.3 Responsible authority; office, division, person etc.

Statistics Iceland
External Trade
Auður Ólína Svavarsdóttir, Head of unit
Tel +354 528 1151
e-mail audur.svavarsdottir@statice.is

0.4 Purpose and history

The External Trade department is in charge of detailed information on import of goods to Iceland and export of goods from Iceland. Figures on external trade in goods for the whole country exist from 1624 but figures on external trade in goods have been published regularly since 1862.

0.5 Users and application

Users are the public sector, international organisations, private companies, embassies, the media and the public, who use the data for various purposes, including economic and market research. The difference between import and export of goods shows the balance of trade, which is a good indicator of the nation's economic situation. Figures on external trade of goods are used in the calculation of current account, balance of payment and national accounts, as well as giving information on domestic demand.

0.6 Sources

Information on external trade of goods is primarily based on customs declarations for imports and exports. The customs authorities register these declarations and the data are available electronically for Statistics Iceland. These data are checked and corrected as much as possible. Frequently the importer or exporter concerned is contacted in order to obtain further information or make corrections. Data on external trade are gathered from other sources as well. Thus the Icelandic Directorate of Shipping (Register of Vessels) and the Civil Aviation Administration, Flight Safety Department, supply information regarding purchases and sales of ships and aircraft, the importers or exporters concerned are contacted for further details. Statistics Iceland sends out inquiries regarding trading of ships and aircrafts abroad by Icelandic companies, quarterly to larger traders and yearly to SME's. The directorate of Shipping provides information on ships sent for conversions abroad. The companies concerned are subsequently contacted for closer details. As regards improvements of foreign vessels carried out by Icelandic companies, information is obtained from the relevant companies.

0.7 Legal basis for official statistics

Act on Statistics Iceland and official statistics, no. 163/2007, Act on the Protection of Privacy as regards the Processing of Personal Data, No. 77/2000, Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics (UN).

0.8 Response burden

Each importer and exporter is obligated to hand in to customs authorities a customs declaration for import and export of goods. Also Statistics Iceland contacts companies for information. The response burden due to that is minimum, since Statistic Iceland is in most cases is looking for further explanation of information previously given.

0.9 EEA and EU obligations

Regulations 1172/95 and 1917/2000 with later amendments and addenda.

1. Contents

1.1 Description of content

In general, Statistics Iceland follows the guidelines given in the "United Nations: International Trade Statistics, Concepts and Definitions" as regards what to include in external trade of goods, how and when. The statistics extend to merchandise trade, and by a general definition any imports or exports of goods which add to or subtract from the stock of material resources of a country should be included in external trade statistics. A distinction is made between two systems of international trade in goods, the general trade system and the special trade system. The main difference between these systems involves the method of registering goods imported to customs bonded warehouses and free zones. According to the general trade system an item of goods is registered as import on entry into a bonded warehouse or free zone, whereas according to the special trade system such an item would be registered on entry into a country from a bonded warehouse or free zone. In Iceland the general trade system was replaced by the special trade system mid year 1998.

External trade of goods shows detailed information on import of goods to Iceland and export of goods from Iceland by countries (countries of origin for imports and countries of final destination (consumption) for exports), divided by various classifications.
The basic classification and the most detailed one is the Icelandic Customs Tariff, which is an eight digits classification that complies with the six digits of the HS classification, with the addition of two digits that are used in some instances for more detailed breakdown according to Icelandic requirements. The current tariff entered into force on 1 January 1988, including approximately 8,000 customs tariff numbers.
Information on weight and fob-value for exports and on weight, fob-value and cif-value of imports are published. For chosen products supplementary unit is published (square metres, units, pairs and litres).
Figures on the value of imports and exports of goods are reached by converting the foreign currency value of the commodity to the Icelandic króna (ISK) based on the daily midrate of the currency concerned. The reference rate of exchange is a so-called customs exchange rate, which is the official exchange rate as registered by the Central Bank of Iceland on the last working day before the date of customs clearance.
Statistics Iceland also publishes information on external trade of goods by other classifications, mainly SITC (Standard International Trade Classification, UN), Classification of Commodities (Icelandic classification) and BEC (Broad Economic Classification, UN), as well as information on external trade by market areas.
The data are not seasonally adjusted.

1.2 Statistical concepts

In the files, received from the customs authorities, each record of the customs declarations has the following columns:
Eink: Flow, X (exports) eða M (imports).
Tlsk: 8 digits customs tariff number.
Land: Country of origin in imports and country of final destination in exports, two digits code according to ISO-3166.
Eifj: Supplementary unit, e.g. cubic metres (wood), pieces (horses, various items of clothing, automobiles, ships, aircraft, etc.), pairs (shoes) or litres (wine).
Magn: Net weight (i.e. weight without packaging) in kilos.
Verð: Fob-value in ISK for exports and fob-value and cif-value for imports. The fob (free on board) value means the price for the item when it is on board whatever means of transport in the country of export. Cif (cost, insurance, freight) value also includes costs induced until the item is unloaded in the country of import. This chiefly involves freight rates and insurance costs.

There are also other columns in the files which include information used for data checks or further describe the data (for example dates, id-numbers, customs duty exemption codes, etc.)

Tlsk (customs tariff number) links the data to other classifications, such as SITC, Classification of Commodities and BEC.

The detail of publishing is the sum of the columns previously mentioned but the data is also published on more aggrigated level.

Balance of trade of goods = Exports of goods fob - imports of goods fob. If the exports are higher than the imports, there is a trade surplus, but if the imports are higher than the exports, there is a trade deficit.

The current account (calculated by the Central Bank) equals the balance of trade in goods, balance of trade in services, balance of income (calculated by the Central Bank) and current transfer (calculated by the Central Bank).

2. Time

2.1 Reference periods

Monthly figures are processed each time and the data relates to the month in which a customs declaration is cleared for the good in question.

2.2 Process time

Data processing for each month starts right after the end of the reference month and is published on average in the first week after the end of the next month after the reference month, approximately 5-6 weeks after the end of the reference month. Preliminary total figures for exports and imports are published no later than the 10th day of the next month after the reference month.
Final figures for the year are published in the first half of the year after the reference year.

2.3 Punctuality

The publication of figures for external trade in goods is according to Advance Release Calender for each year which is published in November the year before the reference year on Statistics Iceland website.
The release time is 9 am.

2.4 Frequency of releases

Monthly figures and cumulative figures from the beginning of the year are published each time, e.g. both January and February figures are published for February, however only monthly preliminary figures are published.
Data is therefore published 25 times per year.

3. Reliability and security

3.1 Accuracy and reliability

Each importer and exporter is obligated to hand in a customs declaration for import and export of good. Therefore it can be assumed that the customs declarations covers most of the external trade and Statistics Iceland makes effort to keep track of it, for example through media.
However, there is a timelag in the data which results in that a part of the export and import does not relate to the months where the import and export actually took place.
There are also errors in the data (registration errors, missing information or wrong information), that Statistics Iceland tries to minimize by reviewing and testing the data.
Never the less, it is not possible to review all records, and therefore is possible that an error might occur.

For finding errors in the data, in order to increase its reliability, the data are tested:
1. In the beginning of the process, unwanted records are deleted from the database.
2. Errors in external trade of goods are either errors that can be tested or potential errors.
Errors that can be tested are where a registration of one or more items within a record is missing, the information is not correct compared with supporting files (for example a customs tariff number does not exists, a country code does not exists) or there are logistical errors (for example the fob-value is higher than the cif-value). These errors can be found when the reference month is compared with supporting files.
An effort is made to find potential errors by testing the data:
The relationship between price and weight are examined as well as the relationship between price and supplementary unit (where it exists) and the relationship between weight and supplementary unit (where it exists) by calculating the average price of each record and compare it with the average price of corresponding records for the last 12 months (for flow ( export/import), customs tariff number and country, where there is sufficient number of records, otherwise for flow and customs tariff number). The average price is tested for a given standard deviation.
Other ways of testing are, e.g. to review all records with an flow, customs tariff number and country that is not present for the last 12 months, to review all records with several chosen country codes, to review all records that have certain customs duty exemption codes, to review all records with certain customs tariff numbers, to review all records that are above a certain given value, etc., etc.

3.2 Sources of errors

The main causes of errors in the data are:
-incorrect customs tariff number is chosen for the good in question
-the value is incorrect
-the weight is incorrect
-the supplementary unit is incorrect or missing
-country of origin or country of final destination is incorrect
-exchange rates/currency is wrong and therefore the value is incorrect

3.3 Measures on confidence limits/accuracy

No figures for confidence limits or accuracy have been calculated.

4. Comparison

4.1 Comparison between periods

Time series exist from the year 1988, figures on imports and exports of goods have been registered according to customs tariff numbers since then. However, comparison of individual goods is not possible in all instances as changes have been made on the customs tariff numbers, usually yearly. Still it is possible to compare more aggregated data, like customs tariff chapters. Other classifications which cover longer periods do exist, for example the Classification of Commodities and the SITC classification but some major changes have been made on them as well. In 1988, when new customs tariff entered into force, the third revision of the SITC classification was applied. The fourth revision of the SITC classification was applied in 2008. In 1988, a major change was made on Classificaton of Commodites and again in 2001. SITC, rev. 3, exists for 1-5 digits from 1988, SITC, rev. 4, exists for 1-5 digits from 2008 and BEC for 1-3 digits from 1988, to give an example. The classifications provide information on weights, supplementary units, fob-value and cif-value from 1988.

4.2 Comparison with other statistics

Each month, when data on export and import of goods are retrieved from the Customs authorities system, it is compared with a file, retrieved from the same system, which shows the total figures of VAT on imported goods in the same month. This comparison is made to check the data from the customs system.
To some extent, mirror analyses have been done on external trade of goods, i.e. a comparison of what Iceland exports of goods to a certain country and what that country reports as import of goods from Iceland and vice versa.
It is possible to compare external trade of goods with other statstics, but so far it has not been done. Statistics Iceland is planning to do so.

4.3 Coherence between preliminary and final statistics

Monthly preliminary figures for total exports of goods and total imports of goods has proven itself to be an good indicator for later published total figures for the relevant months, as major part of each months corrections includes corrections of country codes and custom tariff numbers which does not influence the total value. Yearly figures are reviewed after the end of each year and therefore monthly figures published in the end of the year and cumulative figures for the year can be different from the figures published for individual months during that year. Also as all months of the reference year are subject to changes during each month processing, monthly figures of previous months of the reference year might change during the year.

5. Access to information

5.1 Forms of dissemination

Press releases are published monthly, preliminary figures of total exports and imports of goods in Icelandic and English in the beginning of each month and after conclusion of each month's processing, in Icelandic (monthly figures and cumulative figures for the reference year) and in English (cumulative figures for the reference year). The press releases are sent to subscribers and the media.

Once a year, as a part of Hagtíðindi (Statistical Series), External trade of goods for the latest year is published on Statistics Iceland website as well as in printed version.

Various tables of external trade in goods are published on Statistics Iceland website (preliminary, monthly, cumulative, yearly, by various classifications, countries, market areas as well as historical data) and in Short term indicators.

Information on methodology and classifications in external trade of goods is available on Statistics Iceland website.

Tables on external trade in goods are published in the Statistical Yearbook of Iceland as well as in Iceland in figures.

Information on external trade of goods is regularily sent to various international organisations, which include the data in their databases, such as IMF, OECD and Eurostat.

Information is sent to subscribers, monthly, quarterly and yearly.

5.2 Basic data; storage and usability

Numerous files include data on external trade in goods, i.e. detailed data, monthly data, yearly data and their supporting files. Data on external trade of goods are stored in Statistics Iceland database. For users it is possible to get restricted access to the data on-line.

5.3 Reports

Information on the methodology of external trade in goods can be found on the Statistics Iceland website.

United Nations guidelines for external trade in goods can be found in International Merchandise Trade Statistics, Concepts and Definitions, Statistical Papers, Series M no. 52, rev. 2 (United Nations, New York 1998).

5.4 Other information

It is possible to find figures on Icelandic external trade in goods in various publications from international organisations, such as Eurostat, UN and OECD.

The external trade department and the information department give all information on external trade. E-mail addresses and telephone numers are available on The Statistics Iceland's website.

© Hagstofa �slands, �ann 28-1-2011