How to collect Trade Data? – SULA NYC

How to collect Trade Data?

We all know the challenge of gathering intelligence, checking data, trends - in addition to our knowledge of markets and trends. New Yorkers ask each other daily ‘what’s going on’ so we just need to know for sure - or seek for convincing visuals. Especially when you operate in a ‘zero fault tolerance’ environment. Your data have to be correct, actual and relevant. Websites will help fast, mostly free of charge and a wealth of data and details.

So let me share my preferred websites that provide great information on trade. What you need: the HS code of the product you want to do research on. HS stands for Harmonized System, the global custom duty tariff categories for traded products. With 2 to 8 digits products can be identified. For’ HS’ help:,

Two digits is the generic ‘category’ code and a 8 digit HS code defines a specific product. Example: HS 15 is ‘fats and oils’, HS 1515 is the generic code for vegetable oils and is Argan oil.

Two organizations are our favorites to share:

    • The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) for stunning visuals of international trade data ( and a method to define complexity of products (see footer)  and
    • International Trade Center (ITC) ( for an enormous variety of data, tools, videos. Let’s jump in:

 This is what the world exported in 2015: $ 15,7 trillion USD.

21 Categories, per Year, Country or the World, in % or USD, Import, Export             In a variety of 3 HS codes: it’s all available from this source: OEC.

Bottom, orange square. 2nd from right, visualizes vegetable oils.SULA NYC imports vegetable oils so our interest is in HS code ‘1515’. With a few clicks, the model below opens as a visualization of the world’s export of vegetable oils in 2015: $91,6 billion USD, based on a 2 digit HS score. Every square opens new details and click through options to info per country.

And of course like me, you are dying to learn the Estimated Export of Argan oils, 2016: $ 25 million USD.. now that’s a number!
And if you want to know what 2 countries, Brazil + Morocco exported,2015:

In addition to trade data OEC also calculates complexity of trade, using two models:

PCI (Product Complexity Index) or ECI:

“ The complexity of an economy (ECI) is related to the multiplicity of useful knowledge embedded in it. Because individuals are limited in what they know, the only way societies can expand their knowledge base is by facilitating the interaction of individuals in increasingly complex networks in order to make products. We can measure economic complexity by the mix of these products that countries are able to make.”
“ Some products (PCI), like medical imaging devices or jet engines, embed large amounts of knowledge and are the results of very large networks of people and organizations. These products cannot be made in simpler economies that are missing parts of this network’s capability set. Economic complexity, therefore, is expressed in the composition of a country’s productive output and reflects the structures that emerge to hold and combine knowledge.”
The link to OEC calculation for ECI and RCA is in the footer.
RCA (Revealed Comparative Advantage)
“ When associating countries to products it is important to take into account the size of the export volume of countries and that of the world trade of products. This is because, even for the same product, we expect the volume of exports of a large country like China, to be larger than the volume of exports of a small country like Uruguay.”

“ By the same token, we expect the export volume of products that represent a large fraction of world trade, such as cars or footwear, to represent a larger share of a country's exports than products that account for a small fraction of world trade, like argan oil or potato flour.”

Country ranking on ECI:

ECI: Economic Complexity Index. The higher the ECI number - Japan leads with 2.30- the more complex the trade in that country is. And complexity is good as it adds more value to the economy. Surprising to me
-please pardon my innocence, Czechs - is the #9 ranking of the Czech Republic; in 2014 it ranked 8 on the global list.

This is the visual:

OEC explains it:
The economy of the Czech Republic has an Economic Complexity Index (ECI) of 1.66 making it the 9th most complex country. the Czech Republic exports 362 products with revealed comparative advantage (meaning that its share of global exports is larger than what would be expected from the size of its export economy and from the size of a product’s global market).
Well done, Czechs.

But wait, there’s more… Vehicle parts (light blue, center) score 3.80: excellent export opportunities!

And what about our vegetable oils, HS 1515 ? The complexity is, well, ..

The negative factor is not that surprising, assuming the production of a pure vegetable oil is
not that complex, as it is basically 1, 2, 3: 1. Harvest, 2. Crack nut / or peel fruit, 3. Extract oil.
But ECI is completely different than a quality ranking. There are a plethora of factors influencing the quality of the oil: how it is harvested, selected; hygienic and QA/QC; cold-pressed, testing, storage etc. GMP, ISO standards, or even better: Organic certification are deciding qualitative factors. That’s why oil oil costs more than an ‘engine oil drain valve’.

That was an impression what the OEC website can bring to you. The second website I’m highlighting is ITC. Very impressive as well. I am not comparing the same type of information you can get from both websites, but point out some of the features I found a helpful tool for our export.

ITC (Intracen):

ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, with the focus on the internationalization of SME’s. Based Switzerland they have set goals of which ‘providing trade and marketing intelligence’ is the most relevant for exporters, searching for data.

ITC developed and maintains Market Analysis Tools, video tutorials on data intelligence, reporting and covers all corners of all you want to know about trade, including data on Spices or Medicinal Plants.

ITC organizes also trendsetting global events, like She Trades Global see video: and Trade4SustainbleDevelopment. Join us and sign up!

More info:                   forum-2017/

The Data are in the details - made easy accessible
But before going into an insightful growth model and graphs, I would like to  
point out two ITC options that are rather unique:

First: the Market Analysis Tools. After registering at a portal you have free access to 5 online tools, most likely Trade Map and Market Access Map being the most relevant for you. The tools enable companies and trade support institutions to identify export and import opportunities and compare market-access requirements, and they help policymakers monitor national trade performance and prepare for trade negotiations. Register here: portal.

Second: ITC's e-learning. They have a course catalogue with a variety of online courses, for free or up to a couple of hundred dollars. You learn and have unparalleled access to sources and support by experts. Tutored online courses, mostly in English, French, Spanish, are in three categories:

Short Courses (2 weeks’ duration), Advanced Courses (5 to 8 weeks) Certificate Programmes (up to 8 months).

As example of a Short course: ‘How to Analyze Trade Flows’

In 4 hours during 2 weeks you learn - see title :) - free of charge. But hey, you this blog already..

This course is part of the SME Trade Academy.  Read more:

Winners and Losers, Declining Sectors: the ITC will show you.

Another look on ‘complexity’, ‘growth’ for global supply and demand of products is provided by International Trade Centre ( ITC, A model on the next page, with results from Morocco, shows a quadrant on ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in growing and declining sectors.

Products like ‘fish’,.. (HS code 03) and ‘edible vegetables, .. (HS code 07) ((for sure this must exclude brussels sprouts)) are visualized in the desired top right quadrant, ‘winners in growing sectors’, demonstrating a small export growth on the world export between 2012 and 2016.

Losing in market share in a declining sector is Salt, sulphur ..(HS code 25)

Export development?
As example Suriname, ‘the greenest country on earth’ . Suriname’s export collapsed: 2011 compared to 2015. 2014 export 45%, next year 28.4%

The left visual shows the decrease, the right: due to loss ofcompetitiveness. Main export products bauxite, oil, declined. Currency deflated. So what to do?

Suriname engaged with China, exported wood. Substantially increasing China’s partner profile.

And Suriname sold gold to Switzerland, see below.

In addition to important export industries as gold, mineral oil and bauxite (aluminium) You would expect agriculture to be what export %, being the greenest country in the world? Guess and see ITC’s data on the next page…
It is 5,5% Suriname exports on Food; Fresh (bananas,
vegetables) and Processed Food (shrimps)

So there is a need for goods with export potential:


We are SULA NYC, organic and natural skin care based in NYC, exporting to a few countries, Japan being the most important. We source ingredients from geographically varied suppliers. The Amazon basin ( Brazil, Suriname) is our main ‘wetland’ supplier (Awara, Buriti Oils);from the ‘drylands’ in the Maghreb (Morocco, Tunisia) we buy Argan and Prickly Pear oils. For Technology and Fragrances it’s Japan and Switzerland. Media, marketing and SEO we buy within the USA. Our sourcing is in sync with our philosophy: bring the best, balanced; with a New York City touch on design and marketing. NYC is a great name (brand) that appeals and sells worldwide.,,

The Observatory of Economic Complexity is a tool that allows users to quickly compose a visual narrative about countries and the products they exchange. Since its creation in 2010, the development of The Observatory of Economic Complexity has been supported by The MIT Media Lab consortia for undirected research. It states it’s the world’s leading visualization engine for international trade data. Learn about PCI (Product Complexity Index) and RCA (Revealed Comparative Advantage):
Video tutorials:

International Trade Center, around since 1964. Detailed statistical information on trade flows - and much more.

UN Comtrade

Comtrade Labs is a place to showcase innovative and experimental uses of UN Comtrade data. Explore visualizations of huge volume of data and metadata, cutting-edge data extraction tools, and alternative dissemination platforms.

HS code is maintained by the World Customs Organization in Brussels, Belgium. (WCO,

Not discussed, but very useful: Statista ‘the statistics portal’, , World Trade Organization, , World Integrated Trade Solution, The World Bank, databases: TPIS/TSEP Check out also the Getting to Global Initiative (GtG) is a transformational public/private partnership that brings together industry experts, business leaders and government officials to empower small- and medium-sized companies to sell more online, overseas. . And if you would like to know what your competitors import from where, you can find that on sites like, .. Google/Bing your heart out. Thoughts? Let me know: