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Background Notes

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This publication is based on Trade by Enterprise Characteristics (TEC) data which the CSO supplies to Eurostat on an annual basis under EU Regulation 222/2009. TEC data gives information on trade in goods according to the type of enterprise engaged in trading. This publication focusses on enterprises who trade with the UK.

Data on exports and imports of goods are collected by VIMA via the Intrastat survey and customs and VAT declarations and are matched with the CSO’s Business Register to provide information on the NACE classification and size of the enterprises engaged in the trade of goods.  Enterprises whose exports are above €635,000 per annum, or whose imports are above €500,000 per annum are obliged to complete a monthly Intrastat form detailing their trade for the month in question.

Note that in all the data presented in this publication, the analysis is on enterprises who have a minimum of €5,000 of exports or imports per annum. There were a further 2,000 enterprises who exported to the UK in 2017 with combined goods exports of €3 million (0.02% of UK export total), and a further 15,000 importers with a combined import value of €19 million (<0.1% of UK import total).

There are some differences in the number of enterprises compared to the previous publication. In particular there has been a reduction in the “Unknown” category, with corresponding increases across the different NACE sector and size classifications. This quality improvement has been achieved through further development of the data matching process.

For more information on the Intrastat and Extrastat systems, see the Methods page for External Trade statistics on the CSO website.  For more information on the CSO Business Register, see the Methods page for Business Demography, also on the CSO website.

Intrastat Collection Of Intra EU Trade Data

Extra-Stat, Collection Of Non-EU Trade Data

Business Demography

NACE classifications

The NACE sectors used to classify the enterprises in this publication are as follows:

Economic activity sector NACE Rev. 2                          
Agri-food 01-03 10-11
Pharmaceuticals 20-21
Other manufacturing and construction 05-09, 12-19, 22-43
Wholesale/retail 45-47
Services/other 49-98

Size classifications

The size classifications used to describe enterprise size in this publication are as follows:

Enterprise size Number of employees
Micro 0-9 employees
Small 10-49 employees
Medium 50-249 employees
Large 250+ employees

The term SME covers micro, small and medium sized enterprises. 

Breakdown by partner country for small traders

For this publication the CSO has used VAT Recapitulative Statements, or VIES data (VAT Information Exchange System), to analyse the trading patterns of enterprises whose trade is below the Intrastat reporting threshold.  In the VIES system, enterprises report the VAT number of the partner company with whom they are trading, and from this information, the trade by below threshold enterprises with the UK can be more accurately estimated. Separate identification of GB and NI traders is not possible using this data source.

Specific differences with monthly trade statistics

Trade in goods data is collected by VIMA at VAT number level, and when matched with the Business Register, it is then aggregated to enterprise level. For this reason, there are fewer enterprises in these tables than VAT numbers registered.

The data is based on country of consignment, rather than country of origin and therefore matches CSO data published on the Eurostat website (COMEXT).

The data in this publication matches the data sent by the CSO to Eurostat on a monthly basis, and so, it differs slightly from the sum of annual trade data in the CSO’s monthly trade statistical release for the following methodological reasons.

Goods sent abroad and returned after repair and the parts used in the repair are not included in the data in this publication, as is required under Eurostat legislation. Goods sent and received for repair are included as part of the CSO’s monthly trade statistical release.

The trade recorded here is on a ‘special trade’ basis, while the monthly trade statistical release is calculated on a ‘general trade’ basis. Under the ‘general trade’ system exports and imports are recorded at the time the goods are moved across the boundary of the State. In particular this means that goods imported into a custom bonded warehouse are recorded at the time of entry into the country. On a ‘special trade’ basis, goods are recorded as imported at the time of their release from the warehouse.

Definition of Import Country

The country of import of goods can be defined in two ways: country of origin or country of consignment. The country of origin is the country from which the goods originate. The country of consignment is the last Member State where a change has been made to the goods, for example, where there is a change of ownership of the goods, or goods are repackaged or further processed in some way. Note that in the case where the goods simply transit through a Member State, that Member State is not recorded in the trade statistics at all.

For example, if French wine is imported by an Irish company from France then the country of consignment and origin will both be France. This is the case even if the goods are transported through the UK. However, if French wine is initially purchased by a UK wholesaler and subsequently exported to Ireland this will be recorded as an import in our trade statistics with France as the country of origin and the UK as the country of consignment.

The CSO’s monthly statistical release records imports by country of origin. The data which the CSO transmits to Eurostat, and is published on its COMEXT database, are recorded by country of consignment.

It is important to note that the value of our total imports is the same when the two different methodologies are used. The only difference is the country which we record as the one from which the good is imported.

It is also important to note that this difference only affects imports. Our exports are recorded by country of final destination. The last country to which the goods are specifically directed is classified as the country of final destination. This may not necessarily be the country where the good is consumed, but any subsequent repackaging and re-shipping is not a matter for the original exporting country.

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