The Overseas Trade Statistics (OTS) are a detailed dataset covering the UK's trade in goods
at a disaggregated country and product level. They are published monthly from trade declarations made using commodity codes from the UN Tariff (HS Nomenclature), and its EU derivative the Intrastat Classification Nomenclature (ICN). The OTS release provides access to both aggregated and detailed data for over 9,000 commodities and around 200 partner countries. Although approximate, the detailed data are suitable for trend analysis and for comparing the relative magnitude of components.
Users interested in UK trade in goods from a macro-economic perspective should be
aware that the OTS are also component elements of both the UK Balance of Payments data
published by the Office
for National Statistics (ONS), and the European Statistical
Office (Eurostat) publication of EU international
. The basic differences between the publications are explained below.
The OTS are published as National Statistics by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The OTS are based on the United Nation's International Merchandise Trade Statistics Concepts and Definitions (IMTS)
as interpreted in EU Statistical legislation. The Balance of Payments are based on the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, (BPM5)
, the System of National Accounts (SNA93) and the European System of Accounts (ESA95)
The conceptual differences in the recording of international transactions in goods between IMTS and BPM5/SNA93 concerns the coverage, time of recording, valuation and classification of goods transactions. The main conceptual difference is that IMTS is based on the general principle to record all goods that add to or subtract from the stock of material resources of a country by entering (imports) or leaving (exports) its economic territory, while the recording of transactions in the Balance of Payments is based on the principle of change of ownership. Balance of Payments methodology is explained in greater detail on the ONS website
Prior to May 2016, the main difference between the OTS and Eurostat external trade data relates to the basis of the recording of trade under rules referred to as 'general trade' and 'special trade'.
OTS and ONS Balance of Payments data, up to and including April 2016, are published as 'general trade' based upon goods recorded as they enter or leave the UK. This includes goods imported into and exported from a free zone or customs warehouse, regardless of their future use. Following a change in legislation on 1st May 2016, the OTS and ONS statistics, for May 2016 onwards, are compiled under the 'special trade' system. This records goods to trade when they enter free circulation or are accepted into certain customs regimes (e.g. Inward Processing). The ONS Balance of Payments data is seasonally adjusted.
Eurostat EU external trade data continues to be published as 'special trade' whereby goods are recorded to trade only when they enter free circulation or are accepted into Inwards Processing (IP). Monetary gold is excluded from special trade.