Ever since statistics on exports and imports of goods were first collected in 1697 UK trade has been one of the country’s key economic indicators.
Statistics of trade in goods compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are derived principally from data provided by HM Revenue & Customs on the physical movement of goods out of the UK (exports) and into it (imports).
However, in order to conform to the International Monetary Fund definitions for Balance of Payments (BoP) statistics, ONS has to make various adjustments to the Customs data. These adjustments are to include certain transactions that are not reported to Customs and to exclude certain transactions that are reported to Customs but where there is no change of ownership.
In addition, since the value required for balance of payments purposes is the value of goods at the point of export (i.e. the Customs border of the exporting country) rather than the value of goods as they arrive in the UK, the freight and insurance costs of transporting the goods to the UK needs to be deducted from the values recorded by Customs.
Statistics on trade in services such as international transport, travel, financial and business services are derived principally from surveys conducted by the ONS. Additional data for both goods and services comes from a variety of other sources (typically Other Government Departments).
All information included in the monthly UK Trade First Release is on a BoP basis and is seasonally adjusted. The release contains tables showing the total value of trade in goods together with index numbers of volume and price, figures analysed by broad commodity group (values and indices) and according to geographical area (values only). In addition the Trade First Release also includes early monthly estimates of the value of trade in services.
Data appearing in the UK Trade First Release is also used as a direct input into the quarterly Balance of Payments and National Accounts.