Bulletin – December Quarter 2015 Assessing China's Merchandise Trade Data Using Mirror Statistics Abstract

Given their timeliness, Chinese trade data have the potential to provide a useful early read on conditions in the Australian and global traded sectors. However, the reliability of China's merchandise trade data has come under scrutiny in recent years, particularly following reports of over-invoicing of exports to Hong Kong. This article considers the accuracy of China's trade data by comparing the merchandise trade statistics with the reciprocal trade statistics or ‘mirror’ statistics published by its major trading partners (MTPs). In broad terms, growth in trade suggested by the mirror statistics aligns relatively closely with published Chinese data, though the Chinese figures are found to imply more volatile and somewhat higher growth in exports over the past three years than the corresponding trading partner data. While this largely reflects differences with mirror statistics for Hong Kong, it is also due to discrepancies with data from other economies, primarily in the Asian region.

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