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Learn to code for data analysis
Learn to code for data analysis

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1.3 Exploring the world of export data

The Comtrade Data Extraction interface provides a user interface for selecting, previewing and exporting data from the Comtrade database.

Activity 2 Exploring export data

Open the Comtrade Data Extraction interface [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] and keep it open alongside this page. You’ll explore the options and preview some data.

Comtrade Data Extraction interface
Figure 4:Comtrade Data Extraction interface

In the text area marked HS (as reported) commodity codes , start to enter the name of various goods and services. You should see suggestions regarding different goods and services that Comtrade records trade flow data for.

If you don’t select too much data, you should be able to get a preview of the data by clicking the green ‘Preview’ button. Notice that the interface allows you to sort the data by a particular column, which provides a quick way of finding the countries that export most, or least, goods by value.

If you selected ‘All’ reporters, you will probably notice that a decreasing sort on the ‘Trade Value’ column always has ‘World’ at the top: in the ‘All’ reports dataset, individual country reports and reports from ‘areas not elsewhere specified’ (‘nes’) are complemented by the ‘World’ report which represents a sum total of those other values.

The user interface is rather complicated at first glance, but with a bit of trial and error you should be able to work out:

  • how to display trade flows between a particular country (the ‘Reporter’) and a particular country or region of the world (the ‘Partners’)
  • how to limit the display to show just imports, or exports, between ‘Reporter(s)’ and ‘Partner(s)’
  • how to display data for different years
  • how to display data for different months in a particular year, or all the months in a particular year.

You might notice that the commodities codes are organised hierarchically, i.e. a code breaks down into further sub-codes. For example:

  • 3825 – Residual products of the chemical or allied industries
    • 382510 – Municipal waste
    • 382520 – Sewage sludge
    • 382530 – Clinical waste

Adding up the results from the next level down on a particular code should generate trade value totals that correspond to the higher level totals, rounding errors aside. This means that if you want to focus on the subcategories of a particular commodity type, you may well be able to do so.

For a particular category of goods, and a reporting period of a single month or year, select your country as the reporter and ‘All’ as the partner.

Does the range of goods and services listed within the database surprise you?

Keep the Comtrade webpage open as you’ll use it again in the next section.