What does the research entail?
The international trade in goods statistics describe the monthly development of imports and exports of goods. These figures provide insight into the Netherlands' trade in goods with other countries. They are of great importance in determining gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, the figures provide insight into the Netherlands' trade position vis-à-vis foreign countries. The figures describe which goods physically enter or leave the Netherlands and from which country the goods originate or what the destination of the goods is. The population of the statistics consists of all companies trading with foreign countries. Purchases by Dutch consumers of goods from abroad also fall within the scope of these statistics.
How is the research carried out?
The research uses data on intra-EU and extra-EU trade. Intra-EU trade refers to goods trade with European Union (EU) member states. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) uses monthly business surveys for this flow. Businesses can receive a monthly reporting obligation for intra-EU trade when they are included in the CBS sample for intra-EU imports and/or exports of goods. For this purpose, CBS draws monthly samples from the population of businesses that are assumed to have international trade in goods within the EU based on their VAT returns. Extra-EU trade refers to trade in goods with countries outside the EU ('third countries'). Companies are required to report extra trade to customs. CBS receives the latest data on the flows of goods they control from customs on an ongoing basis.
What will change in the statistics from 2023 onward?
From 2023, CBS will publish tables on StatLine on international trade in goods using two different methods:
1. Change of ownership: goods transactions in which a Dutch company or person transfers the economic ownership of the goods to a foreign company or person and vice versa.
2. Border crossing: movements of goods where the goods physically cross the Dutch national border, without always involving the transfer of economic ownership.
Within the ‘International Trade’ theme, you can choose between ‘Change of ownership’ and ‘Border crossing’. Different tables are available for each method.
More information on the exclusions and additions in the figures according to these methods can be found in the annex 'Differences between Transfer of Ownership and Border Crossing'.
CBS wants to better distinguish between change of ownership and border crossing in the statistics on international trade in goods. Both methods are important for answering questions about how the Netherlands is doing. For example, the concept of change of ownership is important to answer the question of what the Netherlands earns from international trade in goods. These figures are used to determine the economic growth (GDP) of the Netherlands. In addition, the concept of border crossing is important to answer the question of which goods physically enter or leave the Netherlands. This allows you to clarify the impact on the (living) environment, among other things, in addition to the economic value.
The changes bring CBS statistics more in line with international standards. Figures according to change of ownership are compiled using international guidelines for compiling the Balance of Payments and National Accounts. In addition, figures according to crossing borders now fully follow the guidelines from the European legislation for Business Statistics. These figures are therefore more comparable with figures published by other EU member states and the European Commission (Eurostat) on international trade in goods.
How do the changes affect the statistics?
In order to produce statistics according to both methods, CBS has had to adjust its internal processes. This causes an adjustment on the figures from the year 2021 onwards. The adjustments made have a different effect on the figures according to both methods. For the figures according to ownership, imports in 2021 under the new method are 10 billion lower than under the old method. Exports are 1 billion higher. For figures according to border crossing, imports are 5 billion higher and exports are 1 billion lower. In addition, under the new one, a larger share of the value is attributed to transit. On the inbound side, transit is revised upwards by 23 billion and on the outbound side by 32 billion. More details on the impact on the figures can be found in the pdf at the bottom of this page.
How far do the statistics go back?
The statistics according to both methods go back to the year 2015. Unfortunately, it is not possible for CBS to publish reliable statistics according to the change of ownership method from before that date because there is insufficient source information available to distinguish by economic ownership transfer. The figures according to the method of border crossing are not easily comparable with previous figures from 2015 onwards due to a method break implemented. CBS considers it important that through time as much as possible can be compared, and has therefore chosen that the new tables start in 2015. For both methods, the 2021 figures are not comparable with those before. This is due to internal process changes in making the figures on international trade in goods. For instance, the estimation method has changed for companies not observed through a sample.
Starting in 2023, CBS publishes tables on StatLine according to both ownership transfer and border crossing. Moreover, the table of key figures according to the border-crossing method includes figures on imports and exports in transit. In the years between 2015 and 2020, the values of imports and exports without transit correspond to the tables previously on StatLine for International Trade in Goods statistics. From 2023, these tables will be archived.
What is the quality of the figures?
The statistics on international trade in goods are detailed. Not only are there two methods, but various trade flows, goods and countries can be distinguished. In order to offer sufficient quality of results, preconditions and caveats apply to the figures on international trade in goods in StatLine. More information can be found in the annex 'Quality of results'.
When do new figures become available?
About six weeks after a reporting month, key figures by change of ownership are published for the first time. Key figures by border crossing follow about two months after a reporting month. The figures on international trade in goods are provisional for a longer period, as they can be updated based on new or current source information. In the fourth quarter after a reporting year, the provisional figures become further provisional. The further provisional figures then become final in the fourth quarter of the following year. To illustrate, the figures for reporting year 2021 will become final at the end of 2023.