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Doing Industry Research: A Resource Guide

International & Trade Classification Systems

For those doing research on industries that have an international scope either because many of the companies have divisions in other countries or because companies trade globally, using the international classification schemes may be necessary to use in some systems. This is particularly true when it comes trade data.

When looking at manufacturing sectors knowing the trade information will be essential when looking at the industry and trade data systems use very particular schemes which identify very particular products.

International Standard of Industrial Classification

International Standard of Industrial Classification (ISIC) of All Economic Activities code was developed by the UN as a standard way of classifying economic activities. The ISIC code groups together enterprises if they produce the same type of goods or service or if they use similar processes (i.e. the same raw materials, process of production, skills or technology). This tends to be used cross border or in international sources and has been used by the UN External in particular, so you may see it in their publications historically. Revisions have included:

  • ISIC Rev.4 (2008)
  • ISIC Rev.3.1 (2002)
  • ISIC Rev.3 (1989)
  • ISIC Rev.2 (1968)
  • ISIC Rev.1 (1958)
  • ISIC (1948)

Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)

The Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) is used in the compilation and comparison of trade statistics. The commodity groupings of SITC reflect (a) the materials used in production, (b) the processing stage, (c) market practices and uses of the products, (d) the importance of the commodities in terms of world trade, and (e) technological changes. Revisions have included:

  • SITC Rev.3 (1986)
  • SITC Rev.2 (1975)
  • SITC Revised (1961)
  • SITC (1950)

Harmonized systems

The Harmonized System is an international nomenclature for the classification of products. It allows participating countries to classify traded goods on a common basis for customs purposes. At the international level, the Harmonized System (HS) for classifying goods is a six-digit code system.

Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding Systems (HS)

The HS comprises approximately 5,300 article/product descriptions that appear as headings and subheadings, arranged in chapters and grouped in sections. The six digits can be broken down into three parts. The first two digits (HS-2) identify the chapter the goods are classified. The next two digits (HS-4) identify groupings within that chapter and the next two digits (HS-6) are even more specific, up to the HS-6 digit level. All countries classify products in the same way (a few exceptions exist where some countries apply old versions of the HS).

Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSA)

The USITC (Office of Tariff Affairs and Trade Agreements) is responsible for publishing the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSA). The HTSA provides the applicable tariff rates and statistical categories for all merchandise imported into the United States; it is based on the international Harmonized System, the global system of nomenclature that is used to describe most world trade in goods.

2023 HTS Revision 11 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States was published on 09-21-2023.

Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community, abbreviated (NACE)

NACE, is the classification of economic activities in the European Union (EU); the term NACE is derived from the French Nomenclature statistique des activités économiques dans la Communauté européenne. It is a four-digit classification providing the framework for collecting and presenting a large range of statistical data according to economic activity in the fields of economic statistics and is used by the European Statistical System. Various NACE versions have been developed since 1970:

  • NACE (1970)
  • NACE Rev. 1, the first revision of the original NACE (1970)
  • NACE Rev. 1.1, a minor revision of NACE Rev. 1
  • NACE Rev. 2 (2006)
  • NACE Rev. 2.1 (2023)