The United States is the world's largest services market and was the world's leading exporter and importer of services in 2012, reports the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in its new publication Recent Trends in U.S. Services Trade, 2014 Annual Report.
The USITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding federal agency, compiles the report annually. Each year's report presents a qualitative and quantitative overview of U.S. trade in services and highlights some of the service sectors and geographic markets that contribute substantially to recent services trade performance.
This year's report focuses on electronic services and includes chapters on three specific industries: audiovisual services, computer services, and telecommunication services. Each chapter analyzes global market conditions in the industry, examines recent trade performance, and summarizes the industry's outlook.
The report describes trade in services via cross-border transactions through 2012 and via affiliate sales through 2011 (latest available data). Highlights include:
- In 2012, the value of U.S. commercial services exports was $621 billion (14 percent of global services exports), while imports totaled $411 billion (10 percent of global services imports).
- From 2011 to 2012, U.S. cross-border services exports rose 5 percent (down from nearly 11 percent in 2011), while U.S. services imports grew 4 percent (down from 7 percent in 2011). Electronic services accounted for 7 percent of exports and 8 percent of imports, yielding a trade surplus of $7.1 billion in this subsector in 2012.
- Within the services sector, sales by foreign affiliates of U.S. firms -- the leading channel by which many U.S. services are delivered to foreign markets -- rose by a robust 11 percent to $1.3 trillion in 2011. Electronic services accounted for $193 billion, or 15 percent, of the total.
- The contribution of private sector electronic services to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was $822.1 billion in 2012, accounting for roughly 6 percent of total U.S. private sector GDP. The output of these services grew by nearly 7 percent in 2012, outpacing total GDP growth in the private sector (3 percent). After slower growth during the previous five years, two industries within electronic services -- computer systems design and related services, and data processing and information services -- had the fastest GDP growth in 2012 (about 13 percent each).
- In 2012, electronic services accounted for only about 3 percent of total private sector employment, or 3.3 million full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. Employment in computer systems design and related services and in broadcasting and telecommunication services together represented 81 percent of this total, whereas employment in information and data processing services, along with motion picture and sound recording services, together accounted for the remaining 19 percent. Electronic services were the most productive U.S. sector in 2012, with an average output per worker of $249,802.
- A variety of impediments restrict trade in electronic services. Two examples include localization requirements for computer servers and online privacy protection measures that restrict cross-border data flows (such as those in the European Union). In addition, limits on foreign investment and on competition are prominent in several countries' telecommunication sectors, where former monopolies limit access to domestic networks. Noteworthy barriers affecting audiovisual services trade include quotas on imported films in such markets as France and China; Internet piracy of copyrighted intellectual property; and censorship.
- The USITC hosted its seventh annual services roundtable on November 14, 2013. The discussion, summarized in the report, focused on recent services negotiations and the assessment of services commitments in international trade agreements, as well as middle-income job opportunities for non-degree holders in service industries.
Recent Trends in U.S. Services Trade, 2014 Annual Report (Investigation No. 332-345, USITC publication 4463, April 2014) is available on the USITC's Internet site at http://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub4463.pdf.