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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.

Suppliers of Global Trade Flow Statistics: United Nations, GTIS & WISER

The most accessible and inexpensive source for global trade flow statistics is the United Nations.  Through their COMTRADE database, users are free to search for and download data on the imports and exports of products classified in over 6,000 categories (in the Harmonized System) between almost 200 reporting countries.  The same data is also available in other product classification systems (like the ISIC and SITC) for some countries.

The statistics are gathered and disseminated, as they are received, on an annual basis.  With some countries the time lag is only several months following year-end, while others take a year or two to report.  The dataset depicts trade value, number of units bought or sold and trading partner (corresponding country) for each given year.  The U.N. maintains (and makes available to the public) historic records of each country’s trade activity up to several decades back.

Users are limited to the number of records they are able to download at one time without cost.  However, the U.N. offers an inexpensive paid subscription option that provides unlimited search and download capability of all their trade databases.  The corresponding interface allows users to save their search queries for later use as well as set up alerts with automatic download of updated data.

U.N. ComTrade Database is usually the first place to go for Global Trade Statistics.

The only negatives are the lack of specificity and recency. The U.N. data only reflects aggregated annualized figures. Updates are sometimes spotty and infrequent. The data contains only the basest attributes of value, flow (import or export) partner (country) and unit of measure as well as other derivative statistical information therein contained (category sums, cost-per-unit, etc).

If you want greater specificity and frequency, you will need to turn to other sources.  GTIS (Global Trade Information Services) and WISER Trade (World Institute for Strategic Economic Research)  (They used to be called MISER.) These sources have gone through the sometimes complicated processes of obtaining trade data directly from the individual countries as soon as it is made available – sometimes monthly.  The countries where they don’t get “special” data, they fill in with U.N. /ComTrade data, FYI.

Of course, individuals and organizations have the option of apprehending the same information (that GTIS or WISER sells) fairly easily, at least on 50% -60% of the countries.  U.S. Census sells import/export merchandise trade flow statistics for a couple hundred dollars.  EuroStat, releases similar information at no or low cost.  Obtaining Japan trade data is a simple matter as well.  Therefore, 80% of the worldwide merchandise trade, conducted by the countries referenced above, can be obtained and analyzed on a monthly basis at minimal cost.

What one abandons by such efforts are the technologies and convenient user search and reporting tools that have been developed by GTIS, WISER and several other Trade Intelligence providers, many of which are finally integrating aspects of Global Trade Flow Statistics into their particular product interfaces.  On the other hand, for maximum flexibility, versatility and veracity in utilizing data for specific analyses, reporting and applications, one may be best served by going directly to the sources.

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.

Pay With Bitcoin Completed Its First Year of Publication. What’s Up for the Coming Year?

We concluded our first year of consecutive daily publishing with the announcement of a new format and focus: We’re going to be conducting extensive coverage of the $2 trillion of annual U.S. Import Trade.

For the past 120 days, prior to our September 1st launch of WTD 2.0, while we are busily compiling the extensive background data required for this project (and looking for a commercial sponsor and University partner), we republished selected articles from the previous year.

Please check out the complete details in several of our recent articles:

However, over the last several months, in discussion with several of our advisors, we have further refined our intention.  Specifically, we want to address U.S. Waterborne Import Trade.  There are several reasons behind this decision.  First of all, two-thirds of all U.S. import trade is waterborne.  Secondly, transactional data is only available for waterborne imports.  Taken together with statistical and company data the three-fold combination is powerful.  Therefore, if we focus on U.S. Waterborne Import Trade, we will be able to provide granular shipment detail, lists of both foreign suppliers and U.S. importers as well as trend analysis and strategic statistical overview… in each and every article… comprehensively representing every significant imported (via Water/ by Vessel) product.

Our plan is that during the 250 or so weekdays (Monday – Friday) of the forthcoming year (commending August 1st), we will report on specific products and commodities within the major (4 digit) product groups (those exceeding $1 billion dollars).  There are 170 product groups (of the 1250 total) that fit within this threshold thus together our selected product groups represent over $1 trillion of annual U.S. waterborne import trade.

In each story, we will expand upon the highest ranked (by import dollar volume) 6 digit sub-category within its respective 4 digit (billion dollar) parent.  In cases in which a particular 4 digit product heading has more than one billion dollar 6 digit “child” subcategory, we will develop an article for that product as well.

The purpose behind focusing articles on the top ranked 6 digit codes is that it lends to the greatest amount of specificity and business application. By covering the largest couple of hundred products individually, we will develop – over the course of one year – the most comprehensive (and hopefully useful) detailed analysis of U.S. Waterborne Import Trade available.

Those 4 digit Product groups that fall below the billion dollar threshold will be covered in summary fashion within their respective HS section or HS chapter heading for which we plan to dedicate a couple of dozen additional stories.

The graph below depicts a sample of the products for which we will be developing individual articles.  We have intentionally groomed the list as to eliminate all but the top 6,000 plus HS 6 digit products.

Sample of U.S. Waterborne Import trade product groupings to be developed into individual articles

Under HS Chapter 20, “Prepared Vegetables & Fruits” (Approx. $6.5 billion total import trade of which $4.6 billion came via water):

  • 4 digit product group 2008 “Prepared Fruits & Nuts” is ranked in excess of $1 billion waterborne import trade but doesn’t have any billion dollar 6 digit “babies”; therefore we will choose one or     both of the largest sub-groupings (Pineapples and/or Citrus Fruit) to develop.
  • Apple Juice ($672,868,720) is the largest sub-category under 2009 “Fruit Juice”, therefore it will be the subject of an article.

Under Chapter 22 “Beverages & Spirits” we will develop a handful of articles.

  • For 2202; 220210 – “Flavored Waters” ($1,043,205,967 waterborne imports)
  • Under 2203; 220300 Beer ($1,703,419,096 waterborne imports)
  • Under 2208, there are two sub-categories of $1 billion each: Whiskies and Vodka. Therefore we will dedicate an article to each.

Chapter 24 Tobacco, although it generated $1,273,160,265 in Waterborne imports, doesn’t contain any 4 digit product categories in excess of $1 billion.  Therefore it will be covered in our HS section and HS chapter summaries.

Notwithstanding our focus on U.S. Waterborne Import Trade, we will continue to reserve weekend articles to pertinent international trade and economic news, op-ed pieces and articles contributed by our WTD community of readers.  That’s the plan for now.

WTD 2.0 Coming September 1, 2012 Will Focus on $2 Trillion of U.S. Import Trade Flows

All products that are traded internationally are categorized within a common taxonomy called the “harmonized system”  This hierarchical schema consists of 21 sections, 98 (2 digit) chapters, 1250+ (4 digit) product groups, broken down into 6,000+ commodities and products.  These identifiers represent the agreed upon common “international language” of product trade.  Beyond the above, each country maintains its own unique sub-classifications (8,10,12, 15 digits) which are utilized for organizational, policy and tax (tariff) purposes.

Behind the statistics, analyses and facts about a specific commodity or product category, there is a wealth of valuable related information which can be gleaned and expanded upon about the locales (economic impact on countries, cities, communities) and companies (specifics on the foreign manufacturers, U.S. importers and trade service providers such as ports, carriers and NVOCCs).  Over the previous year, we published dozens of trade reports featuring various aspects of this mix including metro, country, product, company and historic trends.  Click this link to view a summary of all trade reports written by Isaac Thompson, who interned for during this last semester.

So the plan is to report on ALL $2 trillion of product inflows within one year.  How this breaks down is as follows.  Every 4 digit product group that exceeds $2 billion (representing 1% or more of the total) we will dedicate a specific article to.  There are over 160 (out of 1250+) of these. Together they represent over 80% of U.S. Import trade.  In addition, we will cover every 2 digit HS chapter along with their corresponding 4 digit product groups under $2 billion.  In cases where the trade volume of the 2 digit chapter doesn’t merit individual attention, we will group them together for representation in a section article.  Thus, within the 250 – 260 planned week day articles, we should cover all product categories.

Taken together, it will represent a comprehensive portrayal of U.S. import trade, trading partners, and marketplace trends.  Hopefully, it will provide significant strategic knowledge with valuable business application, globally.  This comprehensive, if complex portrait of U.S. Import Trade is available for download via our Google Docs site

If the project continues beyond the initial year we can develop articles on lower ranked product groups (in the $250 million to $2 billion range) within the U.S. Import Trade flow perspective. We could take an alternate point of view, perhaps focusing globally on products equalling or exceeding a particular value threshold.  We could revisit the same product groups by expanding upon the trading partners and supply chain aspects of each.  We could increase the specificity (down to the 6 digit HS level) of the articles and address products /commodities of a particular threshold or angle (such as exports by China or BRIC countries). We could cover the several $trillion in global “services” trade.  Obviously, our university partner and commercial sponsor  together with reader feedback and interest within the context of available resources, will help guide our direction. Concludes First Year of Publication with Launch of WTD 2.0 celebrated its one year anniversary May 1st, 2012   365 days of consecutive publication.  During the year we have undergone several evolutions in focus, content and design.  The breadth and depth of our viewership has correspondingly enlarged.  Half of our readers live outside the U.S. from over 120 countries.  This is important to us, since we strive to maintain a global, non ethnocentric viewpoint and provide value to an international audience.

I launched with several ideas in mind, some personal some commercial.  Commercially, I sought to extract value from the assets retained (database repositories, artificial intelligence engine, application licenses) following the UBM Global Trade/ PIERS acquisition as well as my consulting and application development services.  Personally, I sustain a passion for international trade, making an impact, creating cool technologies and applications, and working with talented people.  WTD provided a forum and platform to explore and promote those ideas and ideals.

What now?  Well, the ideas and ideals remain the same. We’d like to further enhance the content and expand the reach.  Finding an appropriate commercial sponsor and partnering University would accelerate the process to be sure.

We concluded our first year’s publication with interviews and observations from the 25th Annual NASBITE (National Association of Small Business and International Trade Educators) conference.  Throughout the next couple of months, we will republish selected articles from the previous year, while redesigning the website and restructuring business operations. Commencing in July/August, we intend to launch WTD 2.0.  ideally incorporating daily video stories in addition to new article content. will remain true to its motto: “Uncovering and Reporting on the Stories Buried Within International Trade Data… Every Day.”

Throughout the subsequent year, we will report on Products–  at least during the 250+ week days (Monday – Friday) – while presenting pertinent international trade and economic news stories on the 100+ weekend days.

Specifically, we will dig deep into the $2 trillion+ of annual U.S. import flows. There are a number of reasons for this.  The U.S. market is considered one of the easiest markets to access for overseas suppliers.  Relevant information on what, how much, when is bought by who is very valuable information for existing or prospective foreign manufacturers.  Also, U.S. companies gain strategic advantage by sourcing well and keeping up to date.  In addition, a plethora of data exists – including U.S. Customs Waterborne Import Shipping Manifest data (which is transactional and daily)  – that can greatly aid in “uncovering and reporting” on the valuable “stories buried within”.  Lastly, there are a handful of valuable sources providing assistance and analysis on U.S. Exports, and not as many representing and looking at U.S. Imports and Importers.

The following are example of previous trade reports. Click on the image to view the respective article. Click this link to view a summary of all trade reports written by Isaac Thompson, who interned for during this last semester.

Banana Product Report

Atlanta Metro Report

Coca Cola Company Report

Tunisia Country Trend Report

Proposal for the License of World Trade Daily Database Repositories & Technologies

Recently, we have received several inquiries regarding the purchase of our database repositories and technologies.  Therefore, I thought it pertinent to publish one of our proposals as an example of several options we are able to offer.  Options outlined below range from the simple acquisition of parsed, normalized historical U.S. Customs data to the purchase /licensing and integration of our advanced Artificial Intelligence engine, accompanying technologies and related data repositories.

For an outline on the development of our innovative technologies check out this recent article. You may also want to check out our article on our database repositories and artificial intelligence engine.

Proposal for the purchase (licensing) of a complete duplicate normalized copy of the U.S. Customs AMS Waterborne Import Shipment databases. February 6, 2012.

We have used the actual cost of the raw data from U.S. Customs as a yard stick by which to establish valuation… without the attribution of processing, enhancements, related databases, or associated technologies.

The base cost of Raw Data from U.S. Customs/DHS for 1 year (365 days @$100 per day) is $36,500.  The complete historical CenTradeX /World Trade Daily Customs Data Collection- acquired and processed daily from January 1, 2006 through August 18, 2010- cost us $160,900 (1,690 days @ $100).

Based upon this cost-value assumption, we have established the following framework for (non exclusive) licensing /purchase.

Option 1. Acquisition of processed, parsed, normalized data in a relational database without the addition associated company or reference databases; i.e. AMSTradeDataImport, along with three sub-options.

a. 1 year data (365 days) @ 33.3% base cost = $12,045
b. 2 years data (730 days) @ 25% base cost = $18,250
c. Complete Data collection of over 4 1/2 years data (1,690 days) @ 15% base cost = $24,135*

*The third option “c” comes with complimentary licenses to the Stats Plus or Prospects trade application for one year, subject to the PIERS EUA.

Option 2. Acquisition of the above ALONG WITH associated relational reference tables and international trade company databases; AMSReporting2 and associated tables as required.**

Please note that this option is only available for option “C” (the complete data collection) and will be calculated @ 30% base cost of raw Customs data (double the 15% factor outlined in 1.c.) = $48,270 total. This figure represents the total cost for both the complete Customs data collection AND all associated reference  and company databases; NOT an amount added to the rate outlined in option “1.c.”

**Option 2 also includes a complementary one year PIERS license to either Prospects or Stats Plus as well as 20 hours of my consulting time on a complimentary, i.e. free, basis.

Option 3.  Licensing of our A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) Engine – along with all scripts, documentation and associated databases needed to import, process and normalize new Customs data and connect it to company databases and reference tables.***

This option is only available with the acquisition of the complete Customs data collection (“1 -c”) AND (Option 2) associated company databases; i.e. AMSTradeDataImport, AMSReporting2, and other files as required. Pricing shall be calculated @60% base cost of raw Customs data (double 30% factor outlined in option #2) = $96,540* total. Again, this is total cost, not a cost in addition to the amount outlined in options #1 & 2.

***Option #3 will include 2 complimentary three-year licenses (through June 30, 2015); one for Stats Plus and one for Prospects, subject to the PIERS EUA. In addition, this option also includes 80 hours of my consulting time, to be arranged within a mutually agreeable schedule.

A fourth option, not outlined above, calls for the outright sale of our existing technologies and database repositories (on an exclusive basis) for $500,000.  Consulting and application development services, if required, would be additional.  Below, please find a diagram that depicts the process of transforming raw Customs data into Trade Intelligence.

  The Journey of Customs Data Transformation from Raw data to Trade Intelligence. is Seeking Commercial Sponsor and University Partner for WTD 2.0

In the last two articles, “ Concludes First Year of Publication with Launch of WTD 2.0” and  “WTD 2.0 Coming July 1, 2012 Will Focus on $2 Trillion of U.S. Import Trade Flows” we have outlined our intentions of launching a revised focus for the website.

As initial preparation for this project, I have put together next year’s “cheat sheet” highlighting our planned product categories.  With some difficulty, I have combined U.S. Imports (by 2 & 4 digit product category) for the last 10 years – 2002 through 2011 with other data on U.S. imports.

  • U.S. Imports for each chapter & product group by each of the 25 leading U.S. trading partners
  • U.S. Imports for each chapter & product group by each U.S. State
  • U.S. Imports for each chapter & product group through each U.S Port District
  • U.S Imports for each chapter & product group by various methods of transport: water, air and ground (rail/truck).

This comprehensive, if complex portrait of U.S. Import Trade is available for download via our Google Docs site.  I would welcome your feedback.

Consolidated Spread Sheet Portraying Various Aspects of U.S. Import Trade Flows

The scope, detail and depth by which we can address this objective will largely be determined by the previously mentioned support and participation of an appropriate commercial sponsor and University partner.  It takes money and people.  There is a lot of in-depth research and prep work to do for each article, particularly if we produce and edit a videotaped version of each article.  Story development, writing, editing, graphics, site administration and marketing for a daily online publication require a considerable amount of time, persistence and elbow grease.  If we include video, there are many more considerations involving pre-production, production and post-production operations.  Thus the need for assistance.

Specifically, we would like to raise a minimum supplemental annual budget of $65,000 to cover operations, out-of-pocket expenses, and needed personnel from a commercial sponsor.  In addition, we are seeking an overall commitment of 100 -200 hours per month (collectively) from a handful of student interns via our University partner.  What’s in it for the respective sponsor and partner?

For the commercial sponsor – whether data vendor, information publisher, trade service provider or business-to-business international trade matchmaking forum – underwriting this endeavor would provide a valuable enhancement to their current marketing and promotional strategy.  It could also be a boon to their clientele.  For the University partner, it would provide valuable, practical experience for their business students who are interesting in pursuing a career within the international trade field.  In addition, it could improve market visibility.

Additional “perks” for both the partnering University and Sponsor will be:

  • Graphically appealing, tasteful attribution (promotion) on the website, all published articles and distributed (downloaded) informational materials.
  • Complimentary use of the powerful trade intelligence applications Stats Plus and Prospects, originally developed by CenTradeX, then acquired and now marketed by UBM Global Trade /PIERS.  We maintain distribution /usage rights to a 13 licenses of each of the above applications through June 30, 2015.
  • Development of a dynamic collaborative partnership which has the potential of generating significant commercial and educational dividends on an ongoing basis.
  • Proprietary republishing rights of content… whether utilized for education, promotion or otherwise.

WTD Editorial: The Original “Letter to Stakeholders” and WTD Launch.

The following are excerpts from a letter sent to CenTradeX stakeholders and associates regarding the closure of CenTradeX and the launching of

The Global financial meltdown of late 2008, wreaked havoc in many industries and was particularly acute within the International Trade arena.  Prior to this devastating economic earthquake, CenTradeX was poised to experience skyrocketing growth via a promised capital infusion from a prestigious Venture Capital group.  In the wake of this severe financial crisis, CenTradeX, Inc. saw a dramatic decline in sales with corresponding operational difficulties which ultimately resulted in an acquisition of its innovative trade applications, clients and virtually all core technology personnel by UBM Global Trade/PIERS in May, 2010

Notwithstanding, many core technological assets were retained such as:

  • The A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) Engine which normalizes and “magically” integrates many disparate sources of trade related data.  
  • The vast data repositories containing decades of statistical, company, product information as well as the daily import waterborne manifests from U.S. customs and 5 years of transactional import & export data from China.  
  • The UBM deal also allowed for redistribution rights to 12 licenses of each of the three primary applications acquired from CenTradeX by PIERS; namely Prospects, StatsPlus and Dashboards to July, 2015.

I’ve always had more of a bent toward innovation, application development, education and philanthropy. Those who know me well know that I’m a person driven by passion, vision and mission, not just money and business as a review of my bank statements can attest.  The sale of CenTradeX allows me to focus my energies within the non-profit, educational sector, where my heart is.

My intention is to leverage the retained core assets mentioned (and into which over $1,000,000 has been invested over the last 10 years) along with my personal expertise, knowledge and passion for world trade to develop an interactive virtual community of trade data users, suppliers, educators, consultants and data-philes @ (WTD) will focus on issues relating to World Trade Data, information technologies and business applications. As a non-commercial forum, WTD will provide a forum for non-bias feedback on new products and applications.  It will encourage a free exchange of ideas,  facilitate connection, provide information and direction, and enhance the World Trade Community.

Another aspect of the vision is to provide free open source access to our vast data repositories and advanced technologies. We also intend to facilitate continued development, innovation and expansion of these available assets. This provocative approach is certain to cause quite a stir within the commercial sector!

As you know, providing free access really isn’t “free”.  At this point, the data is already a year or two out-of-date.  Ongoing data acquisition and handling, web site hosting and hardware /software maintenance will run $100k+ out-of-pocket per year. Also, not being independently wealthy, I need to develop an income stream to provide for me and mine.  So, I am looking to garner sponsors/advertisers/underwriters to help support, both via in-kind contributions, or cash, or both.

We believe that the combination of open source free access to valuable databases and technologies, interesting daily publications by credible authors in the field, the unique needed focus of the forum, as well as social marketing could over time make not only popular but vital.

A longer article with (almost) no pictures.  Not typical. Notwithstanding, I thought it apropos to restate publicly my original vision and intent, at this, the close of the first year of publication.

Special Report: Video Library of Trade Information Providers maintains a large collection of videos produced by various Trade Intelligence and data suppliers.  These provide a good reference tool to help evaluate each respective information source. Videos from what I call the “Top Tier” Trade Intelligence providers can be found here.

Up until now, we had been utilizing the VODPOD widget for the interface, but found that it significantly increased the loading and thus wait time for our readers.  On the other hand, it displayed a lovely graphic representation of six of the 150+ videos we currently maintain.   Alas, the ongoing conflict between the artist and the engineer part of me resulted in the elimination of the widget in favor of less graphic oriented navigational links located on the header bar at the top of the site. Therefore, I am writing both to notify readers of the change as well as to draw special attention to this resource.

Our current collection is divided between 12 categories or channels.  This repository is still maintained at VodPod.  The links below will take you to the respective channel.  As mentioned, the links are also located within the header bar under Video Library.

  1. Umbrella VodPod category of all videos and all channels: WorldTradeDailycom
  2. PIERS (UBM Global Trade).  6 videos: 3 each of hi-res and standard resolution versions: …/PIERS
  3. Datamyne.  10 videos but many are produced by some customer or data geek. …/Datamyne
  4. Zepol. A dozen fairly well produced videos featuring various aspects of their product.  …/Zepolvideos
  5. Panjiva. Great blogger but could only find one video which is in a one minute promo spot.  …/Panjiva
  6. Import Genius.  8 videos including several “case” studies from actual customers as well as “how to apply the data to do “X”.  Good approach. Not just “promotion” or “how our product works” type of videos.  …/ImportGenius
  7. Market Access Map (offered by the International Trade Centre- ITC) is an interactive utility for “making import tariffs and market access barriers transparent”.  Their collection of 13 videos are intended to train users.  …/maketaccessmap
  8. Trade Map (also by the ITC). “Trade statistics for international business development.” 8 videos. …/itcvideos
  9. Investment Map (also by the ITC). Interactive utility “for better foreign investment attraction and targeting.” There are 8 training videos. There are also other resources available at the ITC website that are worth checking out.  …/investmentmap
  10. U.S. Commercial Service.  5 “testimonial” videos, several “how to make international sales” ones.  …/commercial service
  11. Misc. TI Videos.  Currently 3 videos: one about the WTCA and 2 about HS Classification.  …/miscTIvideos
  12. Personal Views: Last, and perhaps least, is one solitary satirical video which reflects my personal view of the typical approach taken by TI providers, analysts and users toward the U.S Customs Waterborne Import BOL data.  Originally it was a Powerpoint I used in a presentation made at the now defunct ITDU (International Trade Data Users) conference in D.C. to a mixed reception.  …/worldtradedaily

Please let us know if you know of any videos that you would recommend for our library.

Catalog of Interesting and Valuable Trade Information Related Blogs

Over the last several months, since the May 1st launch of, we’ve done our best to uncover and share pertinent news, views and Who’s Who in the world of trade intelligence each and every day.  As part of that mission, we’ve put together a list of other blog sites that are worth taking a look at and possibly bookmarking:

China Sourcing Blog:  They have an extensive blog roll that is worth checking out, very well done and been publishing since 2007.

Export Law Blog: ExportLawBlog is written and maintained by Clif Burns, Illya Antonenko and Megan Gajewski. It began in August 2007.

International Trade Law Blog: International Trade Law News is edited by international trade attorney Douglas N. Jacobson, Esq. and began in 2003.

MSU: Global Edge Blog: Michigan State University has a great international trade website and resource you must check out, which includes a well done blog which has been alive since late 2008.

RSS Feeds: A recent brainchild by the owners of, is a site to watch.  They recently launched in November of 2010.

TI Provider: Datamyne Blog: One of the top-tier TI providers, Lisa W. takes great pride in her social media brain child. They have published well and regularly since February, 2010.

TI Provider: Import Genius Blog: Another TI provider’s blog, “Making Waves” seems to get lost in the backwash of too much advertising and their last blog is months old.

TI Provider: Panjiva Blog: Clearly the best blog site of all TI Providers; it’s slick, it’s well laid out, well written, regularly updated, incorporates other social media and even includes cute little graphics.  They’ve perfected the medium since they first started publishing in August of 2007.  Grand Prize winner. Voted Best Trade Information Blogger! 

TI Provider: PIERS Blog: The 500 pound gorilla of TI Providers is the last in social media. They stumbled in rather slip shoddily but have been improving rapidly since their launch a month or so ago.

TI Provider: Zepol Blog: Not inspiring but consistent. The blog site seems a bit confused at the present, but these are confusing times. They’ve published a couple of times a week since late 2008.

U.S. Census: Global Reach Blog: A well done blog site by the Census Bureau that often includes charts and videos. They’ve been publishing about twice a week since January 2010.

U.S. Department of Commerce Blog: Very corporate looking and professionally done, this site is a “must bookmark” for anyone who wants to stay up on international trade issues. They began publishing January, 2009.

U.S. Blog: Started last year in January, this blog is rather uninspiring but nevertheless a good source for news from other sources about export related issues which is a rather important issue.

U.S. ITA Tradeology Blog: Launched in April 2009, Tradeology is the International Trade Administrations official social media outreach. They also twitter around a bit as well.

World Trade Daily Commercial Services: Artificial Intelligence Engine Connects the Dots

CenTradeX was known to be on the cutting edge of developing innovative trade applications. Over a decade we focused our resources in 3 general areas: Access, Integration and Delivery.  Access is in terms of providing user-friendly interfaces with common sense terminology and easy to understand processes.  Integration is connecting the dots, i.e. associating many types and kinds of data together.  Delivery is from the stand point of developing “Disney type” graphic displays and reporting mechanisms that help bring data to life and highlight business understanding and application.

The most challenging task, one that our team labored on for a decade and into which we invested the lion’s share of our development budget was integration.  It was rather easy to layer global, U.S. and state statistical data… although it had not been done by any company prior.

Next came connecting company information – gathered from many sources including Kompass, Hoovers, D&B, PIERS, etc. The difficulty came (and comes) from the fact that statistical information is organized under one universally accepted schema (the harmonized tariff system) while company information is arranged under a completely unrelated system (SIC, NAICS, or a special proprietary one in the case of D&B and Kompass).  To reveal the traders (importers and exporters) underneath the numbers, one has to connect those dots.  Not an easy task…

Finally, statistical information and company information are only updated on a monthly, quarterly or even annual basis. Although much can be learned from combining these disparate data sets /systems, the real value is connecting daily, transactional data with these. That’s where the U.S. Customs Waterborne Import manifest data comes in.  Although it only tracks U.S. imports and only those arriving by sea, it still represents a trillion dollars of international trade.  The U.S. market is known to be the easiest market to access by foreign exporters.  And we are a country of consumers.  And most importantly, contrary to most other trading nations, through the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) many details of the individual transactions by foreign suppliers and U.S. importers is transparent and public.

There are other ancillary data sets that offer valuable perspectives that are worth noting and integrating such as shipping costs, tariffs, foreign exchange rates, supplier ratings, etc. The point here though is that integration leads to value and competitive advantage.

Because UBM Global Trade /PIERS had already invested decades and millions of dollars into their “data engine”, the powerful CenTradeX A.I. Engine was excluded from the acquisition in 2010.  As a result, we retained THE most valuable of our assets:  our A.I. Engine and Data repositories upon which all our innovative web applications were built and into which we invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars over a 10-year span.

I believe, although several T.I. Providers have done some very neat and noteworthy things with data over the last couple years, that our A.I. engine – now dormant since May 2010 – is still the most advanced system by which to parse and normalize the daily waterborne data. It uses complex internal scripts while referencing a huge company database of millions of international trading companies and connects this transactional data to company, statistical and ancillary data.

We therefore offer this resource to consider for sale, license or joint venture.

World Trade Daily Commercial Services: Database Repositories for License or Sale

Licensing /Sale of CenTradeX Data Repositories

Data is THE fundamental building block used in constructing Trade Intelligence.

When I founded CenTradeX in the Spring of 2000, I endeavored to offer a missing value added component to readily available, inexpensive but obtuse trade statistics and reports. My initial premise was that there was tremendous inherent value locked away in publicly available trade data that had been hitherto ignored or undervalued.

It was incredulous to me that NO one had ever layered global statistics with U.S. statistics.  It seemed like a no brainer.  First of all, I began the task of combining many sources of data together to provide a more complete picture, 3-D versus flat, such as U.S trade flows with global statistics with state exports. Thereafter, we integrated several sources of company data with statistics.

Marrying huge sets of data organized under very different, asynchronous code systems is not a simple task. I and my team kept adding layer upon layer (of statistical, referential and company data) in order to develop this 3-D versus flat perspective of international trade. CenTradeX became the first to merge, integrate, marry, and correlate disparate data systems together.

Our accumulated data repositories contain decades of statistical, company, and product information as well as the daily import waterborne manifests from U.S. customs and five years of transactional import & export data from China.

The following represent our retained data repositories available for license /sale:

Database repositories

  • World Statistics: Annual trade flow data (imports & exports) garnered from (up to) 192 countries, years 1996 through 2008. All commodities organized by HS code – by 2, 4 & 6 digit detail – as well as summary tables.
  • U.S. Statistics: Annual trade flow data (imports & exports) also organized by HS code – by 2, 4, 6, & 10 digit detail along with summary tables; years 1989 to 2009.
  • State Export Statistics: Annual trade flow data organized by HS code – by 2, 4, 6 digit detail along with summary tables; years 2000 to 2008.
  • U.S. company information: A rather extensive database, accumulated and refined over a decade, that details U.S. companies engaged in some aspect of world trade; exporters and importers as well as ‘service’ related entities.
  • Global trading companies: Gathered from many sources over 10 years highlighting importers & exporters as well as ‘service’ related entities.
  • China company /statistic database: A huge, transactional database of Chinese trading companies – along with virtually EVERY import and export transaction (including the values of each shipment) from years 2000 through 2006. Translated and normalized into English.
  • U.S. Customs waterborne manifest data: A mammoth, highly refined database collection detailing virtually every U.S. import (waterborne) shipment– on a DAILY basis – from January 1, 2006 though May 31, 2010 including millions of transactions per year with extensive detail on products, shippers (sellers), importers (buyers) and shipping data.
  • Reference tables: Normalization and referential tables that serve to LINK the various databases referenced above as well as provide easy access to and /or understanding of obtuse data such as harmonized code language, trade nomenclature or obscure data fields.

World Trade Daily Commercial Services: Complimentary Licensing of Piers Prospects and StatsPlus

In 2010, PIERS acquired several of our (CenTradeX) Trade Intelligence Applications that now represent half of their product line, namely Prospects (and a Prospects derivative they now market as Trade Finance),  StatsPlus, and “Dashboards”.

As partial consideration, I retained the rights to 13 licenses of this software for five years: 13 licenses to StatsPlus, 13 licenses to Prospects and 13 licenses to Dashboards (which they have yet to bring to market). Said rights expire July 1, 2015.  Under the terms of that agreement, 12 licenses are eligible for redistribution. Redistribution being “employees, independent contractors and consultants, clients of the licensee, for whom, from time to time, the licensee or his appointees are carrying out consulting or other commercial engagements”. Currently I have assigned 2 which will expire June 30, 2012. See the article, WTD Backstory- Part 5: Retained CenTradeX Core Technologies & Licenses.

Prospects & Trade Finance Geo Locator Home Screen

Prospects is unique in the world of Trade Intelligence. It combines many data sources into one easy to use graphic interface. U.S. Customs Waterborne Import data is matched with D&B Company information as well as various statistical sources. In addition, PIERS adds their proprietary export data (at this point they are the ONLY game in town able to offer data on daily exports) as well as some supplemental referential databases. One of the coolest things about Prospects is that all this data, from individual shipment detail to highly aggregated summary, is searchable by-product, company, or region.

Also see WTD article: PIERS Prospects™ – Prospecting For International Buyers and Sellers.  Also refer to PIERS website and informational materials:  PIERS Prospects Information.    Prospects Product Brochure.

StatsPlus integrates U.S. import and export statistics, state export data, and global trade flow information together with global buyers and sellers underlying the statistics. PIERS StatsPlus, retains the slick visuals, colorful graphics and dynamic charting capabilities that were always inherent in all the CenTradeX interfaces.  See WTD article: PIERS StatsPlus™ Attempts to Transform Trade Statistics Into Intelligence.  Also refer to PIERS website: PIERS Stats Plus Information.

Complimentary Licensing of Piers Prospects and StatsPlus.

My vision is to see develop into a vital interactive community of trade professionals representing every aspect of World Trade and Development.  To help seed this vision, I am offering complimentary subscriptions to StatsPlus or Prospects- arguably the most innovative TI software available.

There are several ways to qualify for this complimentary subscription.

1. As an educator, trainer or consultant or as an international trade professional:

Educators and trade professionals will be considered for a complimentary license; provided that as a material and integral part of agreement, they agree to regularly submit for publication articles that reflect their views and experiences in International Trade, utilize the software and be available for occasional surveys and research studies.

Stats Plus Global Market Report

We are limiting the number of available licenses within each particular facet and function involved in International trade (academia, government, NGOs, logistics, maritime, commercial, consulting, etc.).  A minimum commitment of 1 article per month for each subscription is required (2 per month if both StatsPlus and Prospects are utilized).

As a sponsor or client:

Ongoing sponsors of articles and clients (with consulting, development or project management contracts) provided that they cannot be a current PIERS client (or listed prospect) or previous CenTradeX customer.  In addition, you must sign the standard PIERS end-user agreement (EUA), abiding by its normal terms and conditions. You cannot resell or assign this license to anyone else.

This complimentary subscription is only valid for 1 year.  After that, you may contact Aliet Martinez, head of commercial sales at UBM Global Trade / PIERS, – for a discount on the subscription rate to Prospects and Stats Plus.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards – Part 4

Ahead of the pack, both of newcomers and established top-tier Trade Intelligence providers (excluding PIERS), when it comes to the value added aspects of enhancing U.S. Customs data is Panjiva.  Other TI providers may be faster, have other country transactional databases, been around longer, have cool features with broader appeal and application, but the company that has done the most with the underlying raw data (again, with the exception of PIERS) is most definitely Panjiva.  Let me explain.

First, some really smart people (Harvard & MIT trained folk) founded Panjiva.  Really not a big deal in and of itself, I know some really smart people who work with the other TI providers as well.  They just don’t have the same credentials.  As the Wizard of OZ aptly reminded the Scarecrow:  

Secondly though, they had money. A venture capital firm backed Panjiva with sufficient resources to enable them to design & build something of significance. (Funny, there was no Wizard of Oz bequest of that commodity.)

Third, their User Interface was built to serve one primary purpose for one particular target market.  Help U.S. Importers source products and components overseas.  Period.  End of Story.  Simple ideas usually work best.

Most importantly, they truly have gone to great lengths to “connect the dots” integrating other pertinent databases (over two dozens various sources) to the U.S. Customs data toward the end of enabling their product to perform its singular objective more efficiently.

Their strength is also their corresponding weakness.  The singular design and function of their product makes it perform less adequately than tools created by other TI providers.  The best hammer for hammering ain’t going to work great as a saw or an axe.  Try to chop down a tree with a hammer, even a really good hammer… and you are likely to get frustrated.

I will refrain, in conclusion, from bringing PIERS and PIERS products into the equation for contrast and comparison.  Since half (3 of 6) of all their current products were developed by myself and my team, it becomes a rather narcissistic and self-aggrandizing exercise.  Furthermore, there are plenty of other articles on this blog that highlight the relative strengths and features of their home-grown and evolved products as well as those acquired from my company, CenTradeX.

I have learned through this recent investigation that there is no such thing as “The Best TI Tool”.  It all depends upon what you’re trying to do with the tool, your budget, your time, and what features you value most.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards – Part 3

As far as the “top tier” TI Providers are concerned, I was impressed on many levels.   Ryan P. of Import Genius spoke with the zeal and fire of a true believer.  I resonated very much with him – his passion and vision.  I really “dig” his visual mapping tool that lets you dynamically interact with the international supply chain – foreign suppliers and their corresponding U.S. importers.  I also like the pragmatic approach they avow having come from being importers themselves. However, no degree of enthusiasm, cool tools and professional background can make up for the lack of rigorous normalization and data enhancements that are required in this marketplace to differentiate you as a Trade Intelligence Provider.   I believe if they had an ample infusion of capital, they would account for that shortcoming post-haste as well as zip past many of their competitors.

Zepol (Paul R.) as I have reported, has a kick ass search engine that can wheedle your desired data out of 100,000,000 million manifest records and deliver it to you with lightning speed.  It is truly amazing.  Their User Interface is elegant and well-engineered.  I love and appreciate the simple, straightforward logic inherent within its design and function.  Kudos to them for expanding beyond simply offering U.S. Customs data and weighing in on the statistical side by offering Census data (tracking U.S. imports and exports on a monthly basis). Sound business folks to be sure.  They’ve been around a good while now, coming on the scene over 6 years ago and being the first competitor to PIERS.  However, akin to Import Genius, speed, a well-engineered U.I. and sound business thinking ultimately won’t be enough to stand-up against the onslaught of bottom fishing competitors that are rampantly propagating across the planet.  It’ll take more.

Datamyne, with roots in Latin America, along with their handfuls of other transactional databases certainly has a competitive advantage in that regard.  Their new U.I. is definitively the most robust – analytically speaking.  Their management and customer service is purported to be superior. Lisa W. continues to make data/technological advancements moving in the right direction to connecting the dots (U.S. Customs data with other databases).  Referential Company Data obtained from reputable venders such as D&B /Hoovers is essential to normalize /standardize the many iterations found within the U.S. Importer & Foreign Supplier Name /Address fields.  Attribution of product codes is also an essential value added. Datamyne has begun applying both essential processes and, in those regards, is way ahead of most of their competitors, but at this point still has a considerable distance to travel to perfect and maximize the underlying U.S. Customs data.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards- Part 2

To start with I was surprised to find so many new companies out there that are offering products based upon U.S. Customs data.  It seems of late that I hear about a new venture almost monthly. Another surprise is that among those that I refer to as “Second Tier” TI providers (and even have dismissively at times called “bottom feeders”) there are notable, commendable qualities beyond price. Although I didn’t go through the same in-depth investigation and product demos as I did with the five top-tier providers, I was usually able to glean enough information from their website to get a snapshot and form a cursory opinion.

For instance, several not only offer various utilities by which to search, retrieve and manipulate U.S. Customs data, but also provide Customs (transactional) data from other countries and regions.  Consequently, a competitive position taken by both PIERS & Datamyne of offering transactional data for other markets (primarily Latin American) is diluted by the addition of a handful of others (second tier) who do likewise.

Screenshots, when provided, from some of the TIP’s (Trade Intelligence Providers) U.I.s (user interfaces) looked interesting.  Although I would need an extensive firsthand demonstration to form a concrete perspective, there seemed to be a number of products with robust search utilities, including graphic displays and trending capabilities.

Most astonishing though was /is the price.  $99 per month is typical and even on the high side.  As I have reported, one China based company sells entry-level subscriptions at $30 per year (8 cents per day).  With another India based organization –  a “pay-per-record” model – you can download 100 complete records for $1.60.   And, as I have said, new companies are cropping up monthly.

Honestly, it made me grateful that I’m not competing as a TI Provider in the field anymore.  It was always a challenge to enlighten prospects about the value of data in the first place.  Most people either don’t get it or undervalue it.  It was frustrating.  International Trade involves trillions of dollars yet some billion-dollar international companies don’t spend squat on data (or people who understand how to use it intelligently).

So now with new companies offering U.S. Custom data for almost nothing, the challenges for TI Providers get that much more difficult.  The obvious answer is to develop value added solutions that empower users to make better business decisions, easier, and faster as well as document tangible, quantitative, profitable results.

Soon gone are the days (IF they are not gone already) wherein TI Providers will be able to survive in this competitive marketplace without bringing something very significant and distinctive to the table beyond an off-the-shelf search and reporting utility atop minimally standardized bare-naked U.S. Customs data.  The market will demand more… and/or pay less.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards- Part 1

For six sequential weeks, notwithstanding last week’s respite to introduce two new contributing authors and some fresh topics, we have focused upon Trade Intelligence Providers – both “top tier” and secondary players, taking an in-depth look at their products / interfaces along with their respective strengths and weaknesses.*

And to qualify, the type and kind of TI providers I chose to highlight and contrast were those who offered U.S. Customs data: Waterborne Transport, U.S. Import, Shipping Manifest (Bill of Lading) records collected and disseminated daily.  Why single out that ONE specific database as the qualifier for “Trade Intelligence” providers?

After all, there are many types and kinds of trade data – transactional, statistical, company and referential.   Trade Intelligence is about using information, connecting dots and making informed business decisions within the international trade arena.  It isn’t about one kind of data.

The reasons I focused upon those companies and applications that utilize this type of data are manifold:

  • Customs data is inherently the most powerful data source.
  • Customs data is the most obtuse, complex type of data.
  • Customs data is still the most underutilized resource.
  • Customs data offers abundant opportunities for innovation.

Another personal aspect of my preoccupation comes from the sizeable investment – in time, money, energy and resources – that I have made to understand, innovate and commercialize U.S. Customs Data.   And, as regular readers of this blog will recount, I maintain considerable unique technological assets that I consider to be superior and extremely valuable for which I desire to attract future sales and/or license fees for the utilization of such as well as potential consulting /development contracts (within the context of the “non-compete” clauses of my PIERS acquisition agreement).  So, those are my gratuitous commercial objectives.

Bottom-line, there are a plethora of data types and sources that are important.  The Holy Grail of Trade Intelligence is about “connecting the dots” to uncover not only the trends but also the trend makers… seeing the “big picture” and being able to drill down to the pixels if required… breaking down the supply chain to understandable and consumable pieces… applying knowledge to empower and enable more intelligent business decisions.

Conducting this recent in-depth investigation has challenged several preconceived notions that I maintained about the Trade Intelligence players and their products.  There have been many noteworthy developments in the field over the last several years.  That being said, there remain HUGE opportunities within the TI field and an ongoing need for vision and innovation.

*This post is republished.