How to Find Import and Export Data

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Locating import and export data is fundamental to understanding the size of a market and who the competitors are. This data is probably being used to scrutinise the effect of the current tariff war between the USA and China. Both want to be the number one industrial powerhouse, and wield power with the prestige and economic might that this brings.

Most countries structure their trade data using HS (Harmonised Tariff System) codes. These codes can be up to 10 digits, with the increase in numbers providing more specific product description. The best source for international trade flows is the United Nation’s Comtrade platform, which has 99% of global merchandise trade. The downside is that the data is for whole years only, so won’t reflect any recent change in business which can happen due to a change in tariffs for example. It also only has information to a six-digit level. Regional trade data information can be found by using the Eurostat International Trade Database or USITC which has American trade information. New Zealand trade data can be accessed from Stats NZ.

Just beware that one HS code can cover a myriad of different products, so the numbers can be a little opaque and give a wrong impression of a market. That’s when some ‘sense-making’ needs to happen, and this can be down by corroborating trade numbers with other data or conducting primary research.