INTERNATIONAL TRADE CLASSIFICATION SYSTEMS
Forest product trade is extremely important to many countries.
Market and sector studies rely on information on trade and trade flows at
the international level. Two main systems exist for categorizing products
to ensure consistency of reporting between countries.
Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS)
Over 170 countries use the HS for reporting trade flows. The HS is administered
by the World Customs Organization (WCO), located in Brussels. The latest revision
of the HS was in 1996 (HS96). Revisions require a lengthy process of consultation
between all members of the WCO. Trade data reported by countries are compiled
by the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) in the COMTRADE database.
Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)
The SITC is administered directly by the UNSD. The latest major revision of the
SITC was in 1986 (SITC Rev. 3).
Cross-reference between HS96 and SITC Rev. 3
The Joint Forest Sector Questionnaire contains a complete cross-reference
between the two systems.
|| HS 96 Chapter
|| SITC Rev.3 Chapter
| Logs, sawn
Problems with international trade
Partial reporting gives rise to the need for careful
analysis to ensure aggregates are adjusted appropriately.
Products are misclassified (e.g.
veneer sheets under plywood, mouldings under sawnwood, tropical species
under temperate species or vice versa).
Countries are misclassified
(e.g. Hong Kong or Taiwan R.O.C. coded as China, re-exports or trans-shipments
Numbers are entered incorrectly (e.g. thousands
incorrectly entered; kg vs. tonnes or vice versa).
This is mainly a problem for
In the Asia-Pacific Region,
Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar and Vanuatu have had no foreign trade data at all
for the past decade in the COMTRADE database.
In addition, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Papua New
Guinea and Thailand had no data for 2000 by the end of 2001.
Missing reports require the use of “partner analysis” to
estimate trade flows, but this is inaccurate since not all partners report
and those that do may make errors.
The UNSD releases updated data
for COMTRADE at quarterly intervals.
The addition of new data and
the revision of existing data can completely change aggregate analyses.
Careful analysis is required to establish the reasons
for changes and to ensure the new data are accurate.
Eighty-four species of timber
are recognized explicitly as being “tropical” at the 6-digit level in the
National customs officials have
many problems in identifying these 84 species (trade names only are used
in the HS, versus the more accurate binomial nomenclature); moreover many
species are not recognized as being explicitly tropical.
Since there are thousands of tropical species in
trade, proper analysis requires examination of all source countries listed
in the “Others” category in the HS.
International trade statistics are very useful but
require careful analysis to ensure accuracy.
Timber Organization, International Organizations Center – 5th floor,
Pacifico-Yokohama, 1-1-1 Minato Mirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama, Japan 220-0012.