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Trade: Home

Purpose of Research Guide

This guide curates research and information sources for business. Use the side menu to navigate to relevant sources.

Want guidance?

  1. Email a business research consultant/librarian:
    Nancy Lovas, Davis Library:
    Kenan Flagler Research Librarian:
  2. Schedule a consultation appointment with a business librarian.

Introduction to Trade Data and Commodity Codes

In trade data, numbering codes are used to identify commodities (i.e. products or raw materials). These "commodity codes" are hierarchical -- the longer the number, the more specific the commodity. A short commodity code, on the other hand, indicates a broad category of commodities. See below for examples of such hierarchies.

Aggregated data means using a short (ex. 2- or 3-digit) commodity number, in which many commodities are lumped together. For example, if you need import data for "clothing," you would be looking for aggregated data.

Disaggregated data involves using a long commodity number, in which a very specific commodity is specified. To research "cotton men's or boys' shirts, knitted," for example, you would be looking for disaggregated data.

It's helpful to determine the commodity code(s) you need before searching a trade database. Otherwise, you may waste a lot of time figuring out what to search for. On the other hand, sometimes you won't be able to find good trade data for the commodity you chose. In that case, you may want to play around with the data source to see what commodities are researchable.

SITC and HS are two commonly-used commodity codes. SIC and NAICS, codes for industries, can also used for trade data.

Commodity codes are updated periodically. You may see the revision number or year next to the code abbreviation, as in "SITC (rev 3)".

Trade Classification Codes (HS, SITC)

Harmonized System (HS)

Also called Harmonized Tariff Code (HTC), this coding system is used by the U.S. Government to classify U.S. imports and exports. Exports codes (called Schedule B) are administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. Import codes are administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). The export codes can be up to 10 digits long. Here is an example of a hierarchy from HS:
61 Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted
6103 Men's or boys' suits, ensembles, suit-type jackets...knitted or crocheted
6103.19 Of other textile materials
6103.19.20 Of cotton
6103.12.20.10 Jackets imported as parts of suits

Standard Industrial Trade Classification (SITC)

This system is used by the United Nations to track world-wide imports and exports. The codes can be up to 5 digits long. They aren't as detailed as the Harmonized System (see below). Here is an example of a hierarchy from SITC:

84 Articles of apparel and clothing accessories
841 Men's or boys' coats, jackets, suits, trousers, shirts, underwear etc. of woven textile fabrics
8415 Shirts
84151 Of cotton

International/World Data

U.S. Trade Data

U.S. State and Metro-Level Data

Export Tariffs

Import Tariffs

Data & Statistics (International)

Business Research Consultant/Librarian

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Nancy Lovas
Davis Library