Harmonized System Committee’s Special Session on International Trade Statistics, the Harmonized System and Customs Declarations

30 September 2015

On 21 September 2015, the 56th Harmonized System Committee held a special half-day session to raise awareness of the importance of international trade statistics and their relationship with the HS and Customs declarations. With the imminent arrival of HS 2017, the WCO Secretary General, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, believed this to be an appropriate time to remind WCO Members of the importance of statistical data. To that end, this special session invited colleagues from other international organizations to share their work, their challenges, and how Customs administrations could cooperate with their statistical agencies to provide the best data possible.

The Harmonized System is the language of international trade.  As the basis for the Customs Tariffs in almost all countries in the world, it is used by governments, international organizations and the private sector to communicate many types of information, including national excise duties and Value Added Tax, trade policies, the monitoring of controlled goods, transport statistics, the compilation of national accounts, and economic research and analysis. 

With so much data that can be gleaned from the HS, it is no wonder that it is an important tool for statisticians around the world.  But this information can only be as good as the data provided.  Therefore it is vital to provide the most accurate information possible.

Mr. Ronald Jansen of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) moderated the event, which was a joint effort on behalf of the members of the Task Force on International Trade Statistics (TFITS), made up of the co-chairs of the World Trade Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Eurostat, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UNSD and the WCO.  He informed the Committee that more and more work was developing in international trade and globalization, which led to a growing focus on improving the standards of trade statistics.  The objectives for the special session were to find ways for Customs administrations to support trade statistics and statisticians.  Mr. Jansen gave a presentation to the Committee on International Merchandise Trade Statistics 2010, bilateral trade asymmetries and the Broad Economic Categories.

Ms. Valentina Ramaschiello of the FAO shared with the HS Committee the importance of its work with the FAO on HS 2012 and HS 2017 to monitor statistics on trade in agriculture for sustainability and food security monitoring.  Mr. Karo Nuortila of Eurostat discussed statistics relating to European Union trade in goods and the challenges faced due to a changing Customs environment.  Finally, Mr. Nadim Ahmad of the OECD provided a presentation on the measurement of trade in value-added.

Mr. Ahmad also expressed the hope that, on their return, the delegates would inform their home administrations that many of the challenges discussed during the special session were, in fact, being examined by the TFITS and would be addressed at its next meeting. He noted that there were many opportunities to work with Customs administrations to improve their work by finding additional data sources.

The WCO has dedicated 2015 to promoting Coordinated Border Management (CBM) under the slogan “Coordinated Border Management - An inclusive approach for connecting stakeholders”. This stresses cooperation and communication, not only within Customs, but with other agencies as well.  Noting that not every Customs administration is linked with statistical agencies, it is the hope of the WCO that Members recognize the importance of such cooperation to improve the quality of their work in this regard.