Definition: Nomenclature of countries and territories for the External Trade Statistics of the Community and Statistics of Trade between Member States
In the compilation of foreign trade statistics it is essential to have a precise definition of countries to be recorded as trading partners. It is also convenient in practice to have a standard set of abbreviations for these countries. The nomenclature of countries and territories to be used for the external trade statistics of the Community and statistics of trade between Member States is defined by Commission Regulations. For some countries, it is necessary to define exactly what is to be understood as its territory. For example, for the purposes of international trade statistics, the territory of Malta includes Gozo and Comino but that of New Zealand excludes the Ross Dependency.
Since 1 January 1999 the country nomenclature has formally been based on the ISO alpha-2 classification, which means that each country is identified with a two-letter alphabetical code. (The previous three-digit numerical code may be used for a transitional period, however.) For example, FR stands for France and GB for the United Kingdom. The regulation also provides for the use of some two character codes where the partner country is not determined or where it is not disclosed for reasons of confidentiality. The current nomenclature recognises the desire on their part to designate Belgium and Luxembourg separately for the purposes of foreign trade statistics from 1 January 1999.
Eurostat, "Statistics on the trading of goods - User guide", Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 1998, p. 24