Special Report: Trade Research. Finding the HS Code & Getting Some Data

While taking a much-needed vacation in the Dominican Republic, I ended up being “commissioned” by a fellow vacationer to conduct a research study into the scooter (little motorcycles under 50cc) market.  Although my girlfriend and I dispensed with computers, cell phones and all other electronics, I guess it’s harder to totally turn off the business side of the brain.  I do confess though that it is somewhat recreational to engage in entrepreneurial deliberations over excessive inebriation.  Anyway, I thought to share some steps that can help any newbie researcher to analyze a product for import.  We’ll start with getting some basic data.

Step One: In order to retrieve data about a product, you must find the appropriate harmonized classification for that item.  The Harmonized code for Mopeds is 871110. Remember, 6 digits is the most specificity you can uniformly retrieve for either exports or imports.  Beyond 6 digits there are variations from country to country on classification.  You can try to find the code via Google. Typing in the words: “Harmonized Code, scooter, under 50cc” brings back a set a results from which it is easy to lift the harmonized code.

You can also try a more formal approach such as visiting the U.S. Census Bureau tariff search site.  The words: scooter or moped return a screen that asks the user to choose between the following categories:

  • <= 50 cc (871110)
  • > 50 and <= 250 cc (871120)
  • > 250 and <= 500 cc (871130)
  • > 500 and <= 800 cc (871140)
  • > 800 cc (871150)

The International Trade Commission offers a comprehensive catalog by which users can drill down into the fine details of a particular harmonized code by chapter and verse.

To continue, each of the 6,000 six digit harmonized product classifications are organized within a parent – child – grandchild hierarchy.  Each “family” has its own set of rules and criteria under which subclassifications are created.  In the case of motorcycles 8711, its parent – the grandfather of the family – is 87 Vehicles.  Motorcycle’s offspring are organized by size from the littlest of the brood: 87.11.10 (equal to or less than 50cc) to big  bikes: 87.11.50 (the hunkiest of the gang).  Although not displayed in the Census results, there is another grandchild, which is also in most of the families designated by the xx.xx.90 designation: 871190: other.

Step Two: Getting the export values from Census is simple. Basically we export about $24-25 million in scooters (mopeds) annually.

U.S. Scooters Exports

Step Three: Getting the import values, through the ITC DataWeb interface is a real pain. You first have to register and then go through an agonizing process to define and retrieve a report.  UGH! So painful and laborious. It’s free at least.

Step Four: So, what does the data tell us?  Well, for one thing scooter imports dropped drastically from 2008 to 2009 – by 60%, then by another 50% between 2009 to 2010. Wow. Plummeting from $140 million to $29 million is rather significant.  YTD (January through May 2010-2011) reveals that imports are rebounding though, seeing almost a 400% increase over the same period last year.

Just so happens that our friends over at Zepol have produced a much friendlier, easier to get and easier tounderstand recap. Click this link for an updated chart.

Zepol depiction of Scooter imports and exports

Zepol’s rendition beautifully illustrates that the increase in imports gathered steam in recent months.  It also goes to show that the instruments offered for free by the U.S. Government are world’s behind those available through reputable TI providers.

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