Developing a global transport costs dataset for international trade

UNCTAD Research Paper No. 85

This paper describes the sources and methods used for the compilation of the new Global Transport Costs Dataset on International Trade (GTCDIT), a beta version of which is publicly available on UNCTADstat.

GTCDIT records bilateral international merchandise trade in value and quantity, broken down by commodity group and mode of transport (air, sea, railway, road, other modes), alongside its associated transport costs, for 2016. The compilation of GTCDIT has been made possible by the availability of new variables in a recent upgrade of the UN Comtrade database and of new estimates on global transport distances derived with the help of geographic information systems.

To obtain global coverage, the primary data on the new variables in UN Comtrade reported by some countries have been used to develop models that estimate the missing values of most other countries.

As a result, GTCDIT covers around 87 per cent of global trade in terms of value.