Dataset description and subject overview
The Direction of Trade Statistics database contains data on the value of
merchandise exports and imports between each country and all its trading partners.
Total bilateral and multilateral exports and imports are aggregated at national
or regional group level. For each reporting country or group, all the trading
partners are listed. The corresponding monetary values of total imports and
total exports are then provided as time series for each country / trading
partner pair. All exports are valued free on board (f.o.b.). Imports are usually
reported cost including insurance and freight (c.i.f.) although a small number
of countries report imports f.o.b..
Area and world aggregates showing trade flows between major areas of the world are presented as well. Reported data are supplemented by estimates whenever such data are not current or are not available in monthly frequency.
In Beyond 20/20, all the data in the Direction of Trade are expressed in
$US. As most of the countries report in their national currency, U.S. dollar equivalents are obtained by converting data at period average exchange rates published in lines rf or rh on the country tables in International Financial Statistics. Data are generally converted at their highest available frequency and are subsequently aggregated to longer periods: for example, monthly data are converted at monthly exchange rates and the resulting U.S. dollar equivalents are aggregated to quarterly and annual values.
Free on Board (f.o.b.) and Cost including Insurance and
Each individual country's export data is shown f.o.b. (free
on board) whereas the import data is usually shown c.i.f. (cost,
insurance, freight). For the calculation of area totals the import data
reported f.o.b. are adjusted to a c.i.f. basis by applying a c.i.f./f.o.b.
factor of 1.1.
Free on board means the seller's obligation to deliver
is fulfilled when the goods have passed over the ship's rail at the named
port of shipment. This means that the buyer has to bear all costs and risks
of loss of or damage to the goods from that point.
Cost including insurance and freight means the seller must
pay the costs and freight necessary to bring the goods to the named port of
destination but the risk of loss of or damage to the goods, as well as any
additional costs due to events occurring after the time the goods have been
delivered on board the vessel, is transferred from the seller to the buyer
when the goods pass the ship's rail in the port of shipment. In addition,
the seller has to procure marine insurance against the buyer's risk of loss
of or damage to the goods during the carriage. The seller contracts for insurance
and pays the insurance premium. The buyer should note that under the c.i.f.
term the seller is only required to obtain insurance on minimum coverage.
The c.i.f. term requires the seller to clear the goods for export.
The terms c.i.f. and f.o.b. are defined for goods transported by sea or inland
waterway. However, in practice, they are applied to all imports and exports.
UN guidelines recommend that imports be valued at the c.i.f. transaction value
at the frontier of the importing country. For exports, the guidelines recommend
valuation at the f.o.b. transaction value at the frontier of the exporting
Import & Export Inconsistency
There can be inconsistencies between exports to a partner and the partner's
recorded imports from a particular country, i.e. the exports from Country
A to B do not always equal the imports of Country B from A. This is due to
the different ways countries report their trade, i.e. differences in classification
concepts and detail, time of recording, valuation, and coverage, as well as
processing errors. The Guide to Direction of
Trade Statistics (www.esds.ac.uk/international/support/user_guides/imf/DOTGuide.pdf) provides more information on sources of inconsistency.
ESDS International's IMF DOTS on Beyond 20/20 WDS show the reporter country,
the partner country and the reporter flow so any inconsistencies are clearly
IMF DOTS Estimation Methodologies
The partner country information makes it possible to estimate trade not
only for countries less current in their reporting but also for countries
for which data are not available from other sources. For a given year the
percentage of world trade that is estimated declines over time, as data reported
by countries replace the estimates. Estimation procedures include:
Where data is not available for both trading partners during the latest ten
years or more estimated trade flow data is not provided.
- If monthly DOTS are unavailable, quarterly or annual reported DOTS are
- If quarterly data are available, they are distributed over the relevant
months using DOTS reported for other partner countries, IFS monthly totals
or an even distribution.
- If the only data available is annual other estimation procedures (in addition
to those already given) include DOTS reported from the most recent annual
report or extrapolations of the most recent data or estimates.
Full details of DOTS estimation procedures are described in A
Guide to Direction of Trade Statistics(www.esds.ac.uk/international/support/user_guides/imf/DOTGuide.pdf) Copyright © 1993, International
The IMF produces the following documentation to accompany the DOTS:
- The IMF’s A
Guide to the Direction of Trade Statistics (www.esds.ac.uk/international/support/user_guides/imf/DOTGuide.pdf) describes the collection and
compilation of the Direction of Trade. The Guide also discusses the concepts,
methodology, coverage and reliability of data.
- The IMF also provides Documentation
on Direction of Trade (DOTS) Database and Browser on CD-ROM (www.esds.ac.uk/international/support/user_guides/imf/dot.rtf). The discussion
of methodology in this file make specific reference to the features of the
IMF’s CD ROM product, although the general discussion will be of interest
to all users of DOTS data.
- Descriptions of individual country methodologies are provided in the Country
Notes (www.esds.ac.uk/international/support/user_guides/imf/DOTNotes.rtf) and Country and Area codes (www.esds.ac.uk/international/support/user_guides/imf/dotcty.pdf) are provided.
- Concepts, terms, sources, and coverage areas are described the IMF's own Manuals and Guides and the IMF's Standards and codes.
The IMF also produces an annual print version of the database, the Direction
of Trade Statistics Yearbook (www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.cfm?sk=20721.0). Besides a country code guide and introduction,
the yearbook presents:
- Summary and analytical tables showing trade flows for the world and major
- Country pages providing detailed trade-by country data on exports and
imports for the most recent seven years.
The IMF DOTS hosted by ESDS International are delivered via Beyond 20/20 WDS - a guide to accessing the DOTS data is available (www.esds.ac.uk/international/support/user_guides/imf/dotswe.asp) .
Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader software to read documents in pdf format. It can be downloaded free of charge from the Adobe website at:
Accessing the IMF Direction of Trade Statistics
To access the ESDS International macro datasets you must be a user from a UK higher or further education institution. We cannot provide data to users outside of this community due to the data re-distribution license agreements we have with our data providers. If you are a member of a UK higher or further education institution access to the macro-economic datasets is provided free of charge.
Access to data requires ESDS registration and uses the federated access management authentication system. . Registration is a simple online process - go to the How to Register web page at www.esds.ac.uk/aandp/access/access.asp to begin the process.
Once you have registered with ESDS and attempt to access one of the macro-economic datasets, you will automatically be prompted to agree to additional dataset specific conditions if they apply.
Countries in the IMF Direction of Trade Statistics
In the IMF DOTS 'country' does not only refer to a territorial entity that
is a state as understood by international law and practice - the term is also
covers some non-sovereign territorial entities such as the European Union
or Africa. A full list of IMF DOTS countries and regional groups is
Afghanistan, I.S. Of
Antigua And Barbuda
Bahrain, Kingdom Of
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Central African Rep.
Congo, Dem. Rep. Of
Congo, Republic Of
Cote D Ivoire
Iran, I.R. Of
Lao People S Dem.Rep
Micronesia, Federated States of
Oil Exporting Ctys
Other Countries Nie
Papua New Guinea
Sacca Exc.South Afr.
Sao Tome & Principe
Serbia & Montenegro
St. Kitts And Nevis
St. Vincent & Grens.
Syrian Arab Republic
Trinidad And Tobago
United Arab Emirates
Venezuela, Rep. Bol.
Yemen Arab Rep. (pre-1990 data)
Yemen, P.D. Rep. (pre-1990 data)
Yemen, Republic Of (data from 1990 onwards)
Note: Data for Taiwan is not included as part of the
mainland China data series. Due to political reasons there is no data series
for Taiwan in the DOTS online database but Taiwan (country code 528) is included
in the hard copy of the DOTS yearbook.
Periodicity and Time Range
The IMF Direction of Trade Statistics contains over 100,000 quarterly and
annual time series data. The period for which data are available varies from
country to country, but most countries’ data extend from the 1980’s
to the present. The DOTS pre-1980 data is found in the DOTS Historical 1948
- 1980 folder on Beyond 20/20 WDS.
Data that countries report to the Fund on exports and imports by trading
partners vary in frequency and currentness. The 23 industrial countries and
about 40 developing countries report their data by month on a regular basis.
In recent years, these countries have represented more than 85 percent of
the value of recorded world exports and imports. Other countries report monthly
data that are less current, or they compile and provide only quarterly or
annual data. In general the data for individual countries are reported by
official national agencies to the Fund or through their official publications.
For some countries, the data reported to the United Nations Statistical Division
have been used. For most member countries of the European Union, monthly data
are sourced from Eurostat.
The IMF DOTS at ESDS International is updated once a month. See the latest data update page (www.esds.ac.uk/international/news/dataupdate.asp) for further information.