Strengthening the Development of International Merchandise Trade Statistics

A. Reviewing the status of the compilation of IMTS and e-commerce

Under this project missions will be conducted to relevant national offices in ESCWA member countries to achieve the following:

* Review recording and validation of information relevant for merchandise trade at Customs
* Review application of IMTS recommendations of IMTS at NSO
* Review data validation and checking at NSO
* Evaluate data dissemination, including trade indices
* Assess methods and procedures currently in use for collection and production of e-commerce data
* Assign focal points in each of the ESCWA member countries to follow up on the implementation of the project.

B. Workshops:

Five regional workshops will be conducted in collaboration with UNSD, UNCTAD, FAO, OECD, IMF, ITC, EUROSAT and WTO.

At the workshops participants are expected to make short presentations on specific issues, while resource persons will present and discuss manuals produced by UNSD and other international organizations including IMTS concepts and definitions, compilation methods and trade indices. Part of the workshop will be devoted to "train the trainers" materials, which participants can apply to train colleagues at home. This will create a multiplier effect, which will secure sustainability and continuity of the project.

The first workshop will bring together customs officers and trade statisticians from the national statistical offices to discuss the issues raised during the pre-mission at the national level. Issues of concern are the status of automated import and export declaration routines at Customs, the links between the main customs offices and the remote offices, the amount of declarations still produced on paper, the available fields on the customs declaration, the degree of completeness of the filled declarations and their validity checking. It is expected that a representative of the ASYCUDA team (UNCTAD) will make a presentation on the latest available Customs software. Further, the connection between Customs applications and the data processing software at NSO needs to be discussed, as well as the division of responsibilities and the established agreements between Customs and NSO.

The second workshop will bring back the NSO trade statisticians to follow-up on the correct application of the IMTS recommendation and validity checking with hands-on relation to the national data sets. UNSD will present the Compilers Manual to IMTS and will discuss some aspects of data processing. In addition, FAO will highlight some specific issues to the processing of agricultural commodities. Depending on needs of the countries, IMTS and its relation to database creation and maintenance could be a specific topic.

The third workshop focuses on the dissemination of IMTS via hard copy publications and Internet and will also spent sufficient time on the issue of import and export trade indices with special reference to parts of the new manual developed by IMF/ EUROSTAT. It is expected that IMF, ITC and OECD will be sending representatives to assist in the discussion of trade index numbers and trade indicators.

The fourth workshop will be devoted to treatment of the measurement of e-commerce. Representatives of the relevant national offices will be invited to make presentations on the status of e-commerce in their countries. It is expected that UNCTAD or OECD will be sending a representative on ICT and e-commerce to highlight the issues involved in this area.

The final activity of the project will be take place under the form of presentations in two different meetings in order to discuss overall implementation of the project and perform evaluation of the whole project for future plans. The first part will be presented during the "Task Force of International Trade in Merchandise Statistics annual meeting" that will take place in March 2010. The focus will be on lessons learned and on sustainability of the sufficient capacity in compiling IMTS data in this region. Details for a trade statisticians' network will be discussed, including a virtual forum of Arab trade Statisticians and a plan for an active exchange program to the benefit of less advanced regional offices. The second part will be under the ESCWA Statistical Committee that will take place in October 2010, in which the project aims to come up with resolutions/ commitments according to project recommendations and the project sustainability.

C. Trainings:

Training on calculation of external trade indices: This training is an additional activity that was amended to the project based on recommendations from participants in the Workshop that took place in Cairo-Egypt in 2008. The training will bring together trade statisticians from National Statistics Officer, Customs officers, and Central Bank officers from the 14 ESCWA countries to receive training on calculation of external trade indices. The objectives of the training are to introduce the professionals in the field of external trade statistics to the necessary scientific and practical tools and methods that enable them to generate indices. The training will include practical and theoretical modules. .

D. ESCWA comtrade Database:

o An IT expert from UNSD will prepare a computer program that will assist the linking of national trade databases to the regional trade database

o An UN-ESCWA comtrade database will be created and linked to the UN-comtrade database.

E. Virtual Forum of Statisticians:

o A network for statisticians in the Arab World will be created, it will be a forum for exchange and will support the sustainability of the project outcomes

F. Evaluationians:

o A consultant will be hired to prepare an evaluation study on Strengthening the Development of International Merchandise Trade Statistics in ESCWA Member Countries which will be based on the pre- and post-mission reports at the national offices as well as on the conclusions and the recommendations of the workshops. This study will be discussed during the concluding general workshop.

Copyright UN-ESCWA.  All rights reserved