130 years of exact data on international trade in goods – Finnish Customs Statistics a forerunner in economics
Finnish Customs has long-term experience in gathering statistics on Finland’s goods trade. International trade statistics provide information on the goods trade between Finland and other Member States of the European Union as well as with third countries; that is, internal and external trade. Customs, as the only operator, offers official detailed statistical information on Finland’s goods export and import. This year marks 130 years since Customs Statistics was established.
Customs Statistics is a part of the monitoring of Finland’s economic situation and the data produced by Customs Statistics is used as a base when compiling several other statistics as well as for economic forecasts. Statistics are available to all on the Customs website and in the statistical database Uljas and they offer diverse data, for example for research institutions and companies.
– The total values of import and export are very important numbers that describe Finland’s economic development. Other important information is the knowledge of which countries Finland trades with and how much. Information in more detail is also required regarding imported and exported goods. This information is especially required by companies that engage in international trade, says Director of Statistics Olli-Pekka Penttilä.
The numbers in Customs’ statistical data are based on exported and imported goods for which the companies submit declarations to Customs. The traditional paper forms have already been changed to electronic declarations. Declaring electronically, which has revolutionised the compiling of statistics, turns 50 this year. A significant benefit for Customs Statistics is the possibility to access customs clearance data directly as well as the possibility to affect the information to be collected in the customs declarations.
The need for reliable information was already great over a hundred years ago – this is still safeguarded
Already while under Swedish rule, the State wanted detailed information on how much income it received from customs clearances and the quantity of imported and exported goods. The national trade balance, i.e. the difference between import and export, was calculated using the material from the customs service. Finnish Customs was given the same task when it was founded two hundred years later in the Grand Duchy of Finland. As support for decision-making and the business community, information in more detail was desired, i.e. ‘comprehensive and reliable trade statistics.’ In October of 1891, the Senate decided that a Customs Statistics office would be established, and the office began its operation in the beginning of 1892. Its task was to calculate import and export statistics as well as to publish them. Customs’ collection of statistics is regarded as having begun there.
– The importance of statistics has not diminished in over a hundred years. On the contrary, Customs Statistics has a significant role as an official source of information, as a forerunner when it comes to the national accounts and as a basis for trade policy. We still work to produce high-quality statistics on Finnish exports and imports and we ensure that we provide correct and reliable data, which can be used to make decisions that are in Finland’s best interest, says Penttilä.
Nowadays, Customs Statistics produces diverse statistical data and different surveys regarding international trade topics.
- The statistics show, for example, quick shifts in the demand or domestic interruptions, for example, Covid-19 masks and vaccines are currently shown as peaks in the import statistics. The structural changes of the Finnish export industry are also clearly shown in the statistics produced by Customs, Penttilä continues.
Correspondence with statistics in other EU countries
Legislation guides the EU’s internal and external trade statistics on international trade. This ensures that the statistics are based on strictly defined norms that are applied in the same way in all EU Member States. The statistical data on trade with non-EU countries is obtained from the customs clearance systems. The statistical data on trade between EU Member States are collected through a separate procedure called the Intrastat system. The statistical data of internal and external trade are published as a single international trade statistic.
Finnish Customs’ share of the total data volume of Finland’s EU statistics is 43 per cent, which means that Customs is the second largest statistical authority in Finland. Customs statistics are compiled by 22 employees and on a yearly basis they produce ,among other things, 24 preliminary and monthly statistics, four statistics on company size categories, two provincial statistics as well as business type statistics published once a year. Indexes of international trade are published at the same time as the monthly statistics. Of the statistics on logistics, details on the transport statistics, transit transports and border traffic are published monthly in the statistical database Uljas. In addition to statistics, Customs Statistics produces different surveys, such as a yearly survey on re-export as well as surveys on international trade of the largest trading partner countries according to country and country category.
To mark the anniversary of Customs Statistics, a celebratory event will be organised later this year. Statistics are also featured heavily in social media channels of Finnish Customs and interesting statistical events from several decades are presented there.
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