SAS and United Nations bring years of trade data to the Middle East

SAS® Visual Analytics for UN Comtrade offers unprecedented insights into millions of rows of Middle East trade data to its citizens

As global trade affects economies large and small, along with organizations in government, academia and industry, everyone in the Middle East benefits from understanding the numbers behind international commerce. SAS and the United Nations have collaborated to give the world insights into the most comprehensive collection of trade data in existence, using advanced SAS® data visualization software. SAS Visual Analytics for UN Comtrade offers unprecedented access to 27 years of UN Comtrade data – more than 300 million rows in total – collected by the UN Statistics Division.

“We are very excited to help bring big data analytics to the public,” said Ronald Jansen, Chief of the UN Trade Statistics Branch. “Anyone can view all of the data at once, in a high-performance environment, to gain greater insights and ask better questions. It makes our analysis much more efficient.”  

According to the UN data on Western Asia (including the Middle East), the UAE is the second largest importer of goods in the region, after Saudi Arabia, with import values totaling AED 4.4 trillion from 1988 to 2013.

Shukri Dabaghi, SAS’ Regional Director for the Middle East and Francophone Africa, said: “Both public and private organizations in the Middle East can benefit from the vast amounts of United Nations data that has been analyzed and visualized through SAS data visualization software. The insights are phenomenal and very easy to assimilate, and through a few clicks, we can see the growth of trade within the GCC and the Middle East region.” 

Uncovering disparities and relationships

Visualizing more than 300 million rows of data, instead of subsets, quickly yields unexpected insights. For instance, animated Trade History bubble charts showcase import and export relationship developments for all the countries in the Middle East in terms of their trading partners since 1988. For instance, Qatar’s exports have steadily increased since the year 2000, while the same can be said for Bahrain’s imports.

Another bubble chart shows that China transformed from being a major import partner to the largest export partner for Australia over the past 10 years, and the Trade Composition visualization reveals that a disruption in Brazil’s iron and steel production could severely affect Argentina. It also shows that the US-Malawi trade relationship revolves almost entirely around US demand for tobacco.

Many ways to explore the data

Users can explore several views, including:

  • Imports/exports. Top importers and exporters by world, region and country, and what commodities they trade.
  • Trade balance. Top commodities bought and sold on a global or country level. 
  • Trade composition. Most frequently traded commodities by partners.
  • Mirror statistics. A comparison of import/export data, as reported by partners on both sides of a trade relationship.
  • Trade history. Top trading partners for any given country, with an animated bubble plot tracking relationships over the time.
  • Data. All data, presented in tabular format with powerful filters.
  • Historical analysis. See trade history across any combination of partner(s), commodities and year(s)


About SAS

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