Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Statistics • COVID-19 response

Assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the production of International Merchandise Trade Statistics


This article is also available in Russian.

The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) inquired through an informal email consultation with our regional partners whether the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the data production of International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS). Most regions reported that—so far—there is no interruption in data production and transmission, at least until the reference period of February 2020.

It was stated that export/import activities through airport/port continue and the related basic customs data are expected to be submitted to statistical agencies in a timely manner. However, the transformation of the basic customs data into IMTS may be impacted in some countries as not all national statistical agencies are appropriately equipped to support the staff in working from home.

Moreover, those regions that rely on enterprise survey data reported that the data transmission for January/February 2020 may be delayed due to lack of responses from the enterprises included in the sample. The regions also responded that a prolonged quarantine/lockdown period may impact regular data production in the future.

UNSD will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 and update this initial assessment report for IMTS. As appropriate, UNSD will continue to provide business continuity guidance and assistance to countries in preparing their IMTS data.

Relevant IMTS Resources:

  • Provisional indications – effects of coronavirus outbreak on New Zealand trade with China. Statistics New Zealand publishes daily trade from 1 February to the most recent week. It compares 2020 values with those from previous years, to show the potential impacts of COVID-19 since its outbreak in late 2019. The original intent was to focus on New Zealand’s relationship with China, but as the impact is now worldwide, the coverage will be broadened with each release.

  • HS Classification Reference for COVID-19 Medical Supplies. The World Customs Organization (WCO) has issued a non-exhaustive list according to HS codes for medical supplies that should be particularly facilitated during the COVID-19 crisis. It consists of the following group of products:

    1. COVID-19 Test kits/ Instruments and apparatus used in Diagnostic Test
    2. Protective garments and the like
    3. Thermometers
    4. Disinfectants/Sterilization products
    5. Other medical devices such as Computed tomography (CT) scanners
    6. Medical Consumables

  • UN Comtrade – free monthly detailed trade statistics. UN Comtrade is a repository of official international trade statistics and relevant analytical tables. Data users can query the latest monthly trade data with a month delay (as of today, data of February 2020 for several countries are already available). Thanks to timely monthly data, UN Comtrade can provide an early indication of COVID-19 impact on international trade. Besides, UN Comtrade offers Public Data API which enables automation of data extraction for further data analysis or transformation. Extended data items such as mode of transport or the second partner country are already accessible via the interface or API.