EC publishes its Communication on draft Regulation concerning statistics relating to external trade with non-member countries

The European Commission has published on February 17th, 2009, its Communication concerning the Common Position of the Council on the adoption of a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning statistics relating to external trade with non-member countries and repealing Council Regulation (EC) Nº 1172/95 (COM(2009) 75 final). In its Communication, Commission accepts the Council's Common Position in all terms, except the removal of "import quotas", the availability of which the Commission would insist upon.

External trade statistics (Extrastat) record Member States' imports and exports of goods with non-member countries. This information is of essential importance for European economic and trade policies and for analysing market developments of individual commodities. External trade statistics contain monthly records on imports and exports expressed in value and quantity, broken down by reporting Member State and by partner country, by commodity according to the Combined Nomenclature, by mode of transport and by tariff treatment.

The statistics are based on information collected from customs declarations. The statistical compilation will be affected by the changes introduced by the Modernised Customs Code. In order to ensure a good quality of the statistics also in the future, the statistical system has to be adjusted. This is the main purpose for repealing Council Regulation (EC) Nº 1172/95 and proposing a new Extrastat Regulation.

Main elements of new Extrastat Regulation

  • The Regulation provides more precise information on the data sources when different Customs simplifications are implemented.
  • The Regulation also foresees a data exchange system between Member States, which is required under the modernised customs system.
  • The Regulation will enable to compile and disseminate statistics according to the Member State of destination and of actual export. This will avoid the misallocation of trade affected by Centralised Customs Clearance and the so-called 'Rotterdam effect'.
  • The Regulation also responds to new user needs by compiling additional statistics on trade according to business characteristics, by providing trade broken down by invoicing currency and by nature of transaction. This will entail no or only very limited additional reporting requirements for respondents.
  • Finally, the Regulation establishes a better system of quality assessment for external trade statistics.

Council's Common Position on draft Extrastat Regulation

The Commission accepted in full or in principle 24 of the 27 amendments adopted by the European Parliament in its first reading in October 2008. These amendments reinforce the Comitology system or concern the terminology, the legal references and the intention (recitals) of the Commission proposal without changing the basic reform objectives, and constitute no major obstacle for the Commission.

As regards the three remaining amendments one is partly accepted by the Commission and the Council (Nº 26 on data exchange), another one is incorporated in the Common Position (Nº 18 on the deletion of collecting "import quotas"), but the 'Commission position on EP amendments at 1st reading' of September 23rd 2008, recommended not to accept it. The third amendment (Nº 27 on the exclusion of collecting statistics if customs applies self assessment) is refused by both institutions: the Council and the Commission.

The Commission shares the Council's concern in relation to amendment number 27 which excludes the transmission of some import and export data to Eurostat when specific customs simplifications are applied. The implementation of this amendment would lead to a partial coverage of trade and thus to a considerable deterioration of the quality of the data.

The Common Position of the Council introduces some additional specifications on the data sources, the data exchange system and of technical or drafting nature. All these modifications can be accepted by the Commission.

The Council inserted a new recital 3 which explains that complete statistics will be maintained as well for trade affected by customs simplifications which lead to the non availability of customs declarations. Article 4 on data sources is adjusted to the simplifications stated in the Modernised Customs Code.

Furthermore, the Council inserted specifications in order to make a future statistical data exchange system better workable. Recital number 4 makes a reference to the "e- customs" decision and its implication for statistics. The starting date of such a data exchange system is aligned to the progress made in the implantation of the automated customs import and export system.

Finally, the Council in its Common Position introduced several modifications of a purely technical or drafting nature. Some of the changes lead to a restructuring of the proposal and a subsequent re-numbering of recitals and of paragraphs in some articles.

On the whole the Commission considers that the Common Position does not alter the approach or aims of the proposal and can thus support it as it stands.