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Quality of the foreign trade statistics in 2010

30.12.2011 9.00
Press release

The final foreign trade statistics for 2010 were published on 31 August 2011. As of 2010, the final foreign trade figures of the statistical year are published at the end of August the following year. The National Board of Customs thus follows the Eurostat recommendation on the time of publication of final statistics. However, the National Board of Customs detected an error in the foreign trade statistics which affected the trade balance to such an extent that a decision to correct it was taken. The corrected figures have been published in the Uljas service on 30 December 2011. The error only concerned exports. The figures presented in this memorandum have been calculated based on the corrected figures. The correction made to the statistics did not have any significant influence on the general picture of the Finnish economy offered by the foreign trade statistics.

In 2010, the preliminary statistics on export and import values published monthly by the National Board of Customs showed approximately the same amount of deviation from the final figures of the statistical year as in earlier years. The preliminary export values were closer to the final values when compared to the import values. A lot of corrections are made especially with regard to imports from the EU territory.

The final export figures for last year show a figure that is 704 million euros higher than what was estimated in the preliminary statistics. This is 1.4 per cent of the value of the total exports. In the previous year, the final export figures increased by 1.1 per cent. The final import figures increased by 1 703 million euros, that is, by 3.4 per cent of the value of the total imports. In the year before, the increase was 3.5 per cent. There were more corrections in the import figures than in the export figures, and therefore the trade surplus decreased from the 1.5 billion euros indicated by the monthly preliminary statistics to the final 539 billion euros.

The monthly preliminary figures on export and import and the final foreign trade figures for 2010 are shown in the table below and the revision percentage for 2002-2010 in the figure below.

The quality of the statistics of the EU and its Member States is a central theme in the activities of Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the EU. Methods of evaluating preliminary foreign trade statistical data, among other things, are developed in cooperation with the Member States.

The National Board of Customs always publishes the preliminary foreign trade data within 39 days after the end of the statistical month. Detailed monthly statistics on foreign trade are published roughly eight weeks after the statistical month as part of the monthly survey. The final figures of the statistical year are always published at the end of August the next year.

Table 1. Monthly preliminary data and final figures on imports and exports in 2010, MEUR
Month Export Import
Preliminary data Final figures Preliminary data Final figures
January 3 280 3 243 3 335 3 389
February 3 480 3 479 3 520 3 714
March 3 745 3 717 4 030 4 158
April 4 355 4 314 4 000 4 164
May 4 135 4 228 3 945 4 090
June 4 705 4 821 4 320 4 533
July 4 065 4 097 4 110 4 211
August 4 165 4 248 4 170 4 329
September 4 665 4 759 4 805 4 933
October 5 855 5 881 4 530 4 677
November 4 705 4 836 4 885 5 032
December 4 580 4 815 4 545 4 668
Total 51 735 52 439 50 195 51 898
Difference MEUR   704   1 703
Deviation %   1,4   3,4

Figure 1. Yearly revision of the foreign trade statistics from the preliminary data to the final figures, per cent of the value of exports and imports

Figure 1. Yearly revision of the foreign trade statistics from the preliminary data to the final figures, per cent of the value of exports and imports

The statistics for each month are subjected to an inspection process, in which changes can also be made to statistics published in earlier months. Typically, most corrections are made in the two months following the statistical month. When the monthly statistics are published, updated data on previous months of the statistical year is also published.

The supplements to the statistics are essentially affected by delays and incompleteness in the accrual of statistical material. Typical errors in the statistical declarations include incorrect commodity codes or country codes, as well as faulty value and quantity data. The internal trade statistics are also checked by comparing them to the data on value added tax. Consequently, the statistics are updated by adding missing data and deleting and correcting incorrect data. Therefore the corrections can be either positive or negative. The figure below shows the monthly deviations of the foreign trade statistics from the preliminary data published in the monthly survey of the same statistical month.  

Figure 2. Monthly deviations of the foreign trade statistics from the preliminary data to the monthly survey data for 2008-2010, per cent of the value of exports and imports

Figure 2. Monthly deviations of the foreign trade statistics from the preliminary data to the monthly survey data for 2008-2010, per cent of the value of exports and imports

The figure shows the monthly corrections of the foreign trade statistics from the preliminary data published in the monthly survey of the same statistical month. Because the corrections have either an increasing or decreasing effect on the value of export or import, the percentage of the deviation from the corresponding preliminary data has been calculated as an absolute value. 

Figure 3. Yearly corrections of the foreign trade statistics from the preliminary data to the monthly survey data for 2008-2010 calculated as an absolute value of the deviation, per cent of the value of exports and imports

Figure 3. Yearly corrections of the foreign trade statistics from the preliminary data to the monthly survey data for 2008-2010 calculated as an absolute value of the deviation, per cent of the value of exports and imports

The statistics for 2010 were updated for the last time exceptionally on 30 December 2011. The revised detailed statistics were published at the same time in the ULJAS database. The preliminary data for the whole 2010 was published on 9 February 2011.

Detailed information on the grounds for drawing up foreign trade statistics can be obtained under the heading Foreign Trade Statistics on the Finnish Customs website. The website also contains a publishing timetable for the preliminary data and the monthly surveys.

National Board of Customs, Statistics Unit
Further information is available from Mr Timo Koskimäki, Statistics Director, tel. +358 40 332 1851, or Mr Olli-Pekka Penttilä, Senior Customs Officer, tel. +358 40 332 1862
E-mail: [email protected]
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