Methodology, data concepts and definitions

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This section explains the basic methodology used to estimate the number of importers by industry, importer size, province of residence, countries of origin and number of employees (for 2009 only).

Data linkage process

The information available on the Importer Register Database is obtained by linking administrative data produced by the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) to Statistics Canada's Business Register (BR).

Import data are captured by the CBSA using B3 forms and electronic import transaction entries. The CBSA's administrative data files are transferred electronically to International Trade Division at Statistics Canada, which creates and maintains an annual universal file of establishments and enterprises having reported at least one import transaction within the reference year. This file contains the value of the imports, country of origin, Harmonized Description and Coding System (HS) code and importer's Business Number (BN) which is used to link to the BR in order to obtain more information on the importing entity including variables such as North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) classification, the size and province of residence of the importer (establishment level) and the number of employees (current year only).

The information collected for the current year is first matched with records already existing in the database. The unmatched importers are filtered out to be matched with the BR, and their information is then updated.

Estimation of the unlinked portion

A relatively small portion of importers are not successfully linked to the Business Register. Presently, there is no estimation of the unlinked portion of the Importer Register Database. Therefore the data being published in this database consists of linked data only.

Data concepts and definitions

Statistical units of measure

Statistics Canada's Business Register is a central repository of information on businesses operating in Canada. It is used as the principal frame for most of Statistics Canada's economic statistical programs, including the Importer Register Database. The Business Register provides consistent and standardized data at the establishment and enterprise levels for each year under consideration.

The standardized business classification model developed at Statistics Canada comprises a four level hierarchy of statistical entities:

  • Enterprise - the top of the hierarchy, which is associated with a complete (consolidated) set of financial statements;
  • Company - the level at which operating profit can be measured;
  • Establishment - the level at which the accounting data required to measure production are available (principal inputs, revenues, wages, etc.); and
  • Location - the bottom of the hierarchy, which requires only the number of employees for delineation.

As mentioned in the previous section, the statistical unit used in the Importer Register Database is the statistical establishment, which represents a unit of production, such as a factory, plant or a head office. A statistical enterprise represents the sum of the statistical establishments under its control.

This publication conforms to the NAICS, which is an industry classification system developed by the statistical agencies of Canada, Mexico and the United States. It provides common definitions of the industrial structure of the three countries and a common statistical framework to facilitate the analysis of the three economies.

The Importer Register Database provides time-series statistics on importing establishments and enterprises. Using the Business Register to link statistical entities through time is a complex task because of the frequency of re-organizations, mergers and takeovers, which often impact only the structure of the enterprise and leave the structure of the establishment unaffected. A new enterprise identifier is not always created when the structure of an enterprise changes. Therefore, the most recent structure is allocated throughout the period 2002 to 2009 in the Importer Register Database.

Another reason for using the establishment as the main statistical unit of measure is that it allows estimation at the provincial/territorial level. An enterprise often operates several establishments. These establishments can be located in more than one province/territory. Since a single establishment operates from one province or territory only, deriving provincial/territorial estimates at the establishment level is more meaningful.

Coverage of the Importer Register Database

The Importer Register Database covers all the reported imports to Canada from all countries, except special trade transactions and confidential transactions.

  • Special trade transactions: Merchandise imports are a record of commodities that cross the border. Importers range from large multinational corporations to individuals sending personal effects to another country. The objective of the Importer Register Database is to identify Canadian establishments that import. Therefore it is important to remove all data unrelated to business activity. One way to do this is to eliminate all commodities that would most likely be imported by individuals for personal, non-business use. These commodities are mainly identified in Chapter 98 and 99 of the Harmonized Description and Coding System used by the International Trade.
  • Confidential transactions: Transactions that are allocated to Chapter 99 are not included in the Importer Register Database.

Existing dimensions of the Importer Register Database

The Importer Register Database currently disseminates data on the number of importers and the value of imports by industry grouping, importer size, province of residence, and countries of origin of import. In this edition of the database, importers are also grouped by their employment size (for 2009 only). Multidimensional tables at aggregated levels are also available. Despite aggregation, not all data in this format can be released because of confidentiality issues. Some descriptive background information on each of these dimensions follows.

  • Industrial classification

    The Importer Register Database classifies importers by the NAICS. The NAICS system is a comprehensive system encompassing all economic activities of the establishment under consideration.

    To illustrate, consider an enterprise ABC that is composed of two separate establishments (situated in different provinces). One establishment (a plant) only produces goods, whereas the other establishment (a wholesaler) only distributes them. Each establishment has its own NAICS code. If the distributing establishment always acts as the importer for ABC, then this will be the establishment included in the Importer Register Database and the imports will be attributed to the wholesale trade NAICS code.

    The Importer Register Database covers trade in imported merchandise, but does not include trade in services. However, if a service-importing establishment (e.g., a consultant) imported goods (e.g., computer equipment), then this establishment (and the value of the goods imported) would be included on the Importer Register Database, yet the NAICS code would be a business services code.

  • Importer size

    This concept is a key variable in the analysis of the importing community, given the high proportion of imports by a small proportion of importers. Each importing establishment has been assigned to a size class according to the value of its total imports (and employment for 2009 only). Since the 'importer size' variable refers only to the value of the establishment's imports, it is possible to have a large producer in terms of employment classified as a small importer in terms of the value of imports.

  • Employment size

    The number of importing establishments and the value of their imports are also grouped according to employment counts for 2009 only.

  • Province of residence

    The term 'province of residence' represents the province/territory where the importing establishment is located. The Importer Register Database reports imports by province of residence of the importing establishment. By identifying the importer, commodities are classified according to the residence of the importer on the establishment level rather than the final destination of the imports.

  • Countries of Origin

    The countries or states (of the United States) of origin indicated on Customs documents are used to allocate an establishment's imports. Specific origins were aggregated to five United States regions and to five country groupings. These groupings are further aggregated to United States, countries other than the United States, United States only, countries other than the United States only, both United States and other countries, and a total of all countries. The detail break-downs of each of these countries of origin groupings are listed as the follows:

    1. United States Groupings:

    • Eastern Seaboard: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia
    • Industrial Heartland: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin
    • Midwest: Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming
    • Southeast: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands
    • West: Arizona, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, Washington

    2. Countries other than the United States Groupings

    • European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
    • South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Falkland Islands, Guyana, Peru, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela
    • Other: This group includes all countries and territories other than the European Union, Japan, Mexico, South America and the United States

Note that an establishment can import from different countries of origin and can, therefore, be counted in more than one origin grouping. For this reason, the establishment counts shown in Table 3-1 do not always add up. For example, adding the importers who import from U.S. to the importers who import from non-U.S. countries will not give the total number of importers. However summing importer counts in three aggregates U.S. only, non-U.S. only, and both U.S. and non-U.S. will yield the total number of importers.

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