U.S. Census Bureau – Division of Foreign Trade (USCB-FT) Offers Many Statistical Products

The best source for U.S. Trade flow statistics, if you want them in the purest, rawest form, is the U.S. Census Bureau – Division of Foreign Trade (USCB-FT).  Trade Statistics are the bread and butter of Trade Intelligence.  Several TI Providers, namely GTIS and Wiser Trade, have made a business from superimposing their particular brand of searching/reporting engine atop of said data, but for the greatest versatility and analytical capability, one is best to start at the source.

USCB-FT collects, aggregates, slices, dices and disseminates data collected on and about U.S. international import and export transactions.  As they state, “The United States Code, Title 13, requires this program. Participation is mandatory. The Treasury Department assists in the conduct of this program.”  Yup, if you’re going to buy or sell anything valued at $2,000 (imports) or $2,500 (exports) or more overseas you must pay homage to the Feds. Paperwork makes the world go around.

In whatever form the resulting (aggregated) transactional trade data is presented, USCB-FT takes special care to prevent anyone from being able to link the statistics to the underlying companies. It is one, if not THE, primary objective of your neighborhood Trade Intelligence Supplier to disaggregate this data and reconnect the dots obscured by the U.S. Government. It takes sophisticated technology, other data sources, lots of hard work, clever sleuthing and a bit of luck, but it can be done. But I do digress.

Back to basics. USCB-FT serves up a yummy variety of statistical delicacies in several schedules and venues (available for either imports or exports) including:

The above list of Data are compiled in terms of commodity classification, quantities, values, shipping weights, methods of transportation (air or vessel), customs district, customs port, country of origin (or destination).

  • In the case of exports – state of (movement) origin and whether contents are domestic goods or re-exports.
  • In the case of imports – market share, unit prices, import charges and duties collected.
Back in the day, hungry recipients would have to pace impatiently awaiting the release and delivery of their monthly data dinner.  Now, subscribers can simply download their respective selection(s) immediately and directly from the U.S. Census data cafe.  Why trade statistics are important, to what ends this data is employed, understanding the intricacies of information and how it can be combined with other data sources to provide a more complete picture of world trade shall be left for another post at another time.

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