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Trade confidentiality
Confidential items in overseas trade and cargo statistics

The International Merchandise Trade Statistics confidentiality policy sets out the policy for preventing disclosure of confidential information in published international trade statistics.

Statistics New Zealand has a long-standing policy of publishing detailed trade statistics without prior checking for disclosure. The Statistics Act 1975 makes provision for the international trade statistics, together with local authority statistics and business lists, to be subject to less restrictive confidentiality rules than most other statistics. Aggregated data that discloses individual trade transactions is suppressed only if the exporter or importer requests suppression and an identification risk is confirmed. This is known as a 'passive' regime. The "passive" policy is consistent with common international practice and allows data, which would normally be suppressed, to be released providing exporters or importers do not object.

Prior to 2000, confidential data was only suppressed for three months. Following complaints that this did not offer sufficient protection of commercially sensitive information, Statistics New Zealand has reviewed the existing policy. As part of this review, Statistics New Zealand disseminated a proposal in April 2000 to change to a policy which involved a much less open level of disclosure of overseas trade (and cargo) data than was currently the case, and was more consistent with the normal practices of statistical confidentiality. The proposal was disseminated to all known users of international merchandise trade statistics. Both government agencies and businesses (including some importers and exporters) wrote to the department expressing concern at the potential loss of trade data if the proposals for increasing protection of business confidentiality were to be implemented. These submissions highlighted the extent to which the operation of trade policy and business decision-making depends on the availability of a detailed breakdown of overseas trade by commodity and country.

The decision was then made to continue with a "passive" policy but to offer longer suppression if needed.

The tables confidential items - exports and confidential items - imports detail the suppressions currently in effect.

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