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What Is Trade Data?

Trade data refers to all data on domestic or international trade. This is by country, region, industry, direction of flow (imports vs exports), and trade agreements partners. 

Where Does Trade Data Come From?

Most of this data comes from governmental or international organizations such as customs agencies and EU monitors. These organizations also compile data from the reports of private companies or supply chain points, such as ports. 

What Types of Columns/Attributes Should I Expect When Working with This Data?

This data is commonly reported in columns that include monetary transactions per industry, country, and direction (imports vs exports). Tariffs and other laws and regulations affecting transactions are also very common measurements. 

You will encounter industry classification codes such as the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System), or the SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) systems. If you focus on imported and exported commodities, you will instead encounter the HTS (Harmonized Tariff System) codes.  

What Is This Data Used For? 

Commercial businesses, banks, investors, law firms, manufacturers, public policy makers, trade association members, and more all rely on trade data. Businesses and manufacturers use it to determine which products to create, where to market them, and how much to price them. Banks use it to find reliable borrowers while investors use it to find good investments. Law firms, international organizations, governments, and policy makers use the data to monitor local and foreign markets and to make sure that no party is being taken advantage of.   

How Should I Test the Quality of Trade Data?

You should feel secure in using trade data from most sources: Governments and international agencies depend on accurate data to function while private companies that submit their data to governments have the strongest incentive to be as accurate as possible. Generally speaking, the difficulty lies in the size of the data. 

In essence, reporting on price by volume or weight across borders, taking into account changing taxes and transportation difficulties (and, lately, coronavirus shutdowns), results in massive amounts of data even for small companies. Larger companies, or any company with international or widespread shipping or supply chains, compound that data at every pressure point. Then, depending on the size of the operations monitored, you may receive updates every hour. Thus, it is crucial for you to collect all relevant and accurate data and make sure it is constantly updated and cleaned. There are many data vendors for review on our site that provide real-time data updates and dataset cleansing for your enterprise. We recommend checking the services of the vendors linked to this page.

Interesting Case Studies and Blogs to Look Into

General Information:

Trade Data & Analysis

UN Comtrade | International Trade Statistics Database

WTO | International trade and tariff data

Case Studies:

Doing Business: Measuring trade facilitation step by step 

Intracen: Soft to the touch: Cambodian silk producers find new buyers, increase profits

WTO: Trade costs and inclusive growth: Case studies presented by WTO chair-holders

Tangible Examples of Impact

“The growth in world trade fell to only 1% last year, a decline from 4% in 2018 and 6% in 2017. That’s the fourth worst progression in the last 40 years. That should be no surprise. The U.S. and China are the world’s two great national consumer markets. With over $4 trillion a year in combined imports, they are juicy targets for companies around the world. As they’ve started saying no to each other with higher tariffs, that’s opened doors for companies in other countries to flood their markets with lower prices.”

World Trade Monitor: How U.S.-China Trade Dispute Is Reshaping Global Trade Flows

“It is once again poised to be a huge week for Britain and investors are keen to see how the government will deal with the issues of the hour, Brexit, coronavirus and jobs.


“It’s in the best interest of both sides to strike a trade deal, otherwise they could be forced to trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms come January.”

Yahoo! Finance UK: Week ahead: Brexit endgame, UK jobs data and IMF World Economic Outlook

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