May 26, 2023
News Release 23-047
Inv. No(s). 332-594
Contact: Elizabeth Nesbitt, 202-205-1819
USITC Analyzes Market Conditions and Outlook for Distribution Services in Annual Services Report

The United States was the world's largest services market and was the world’s leading exporter and importer of services in 2021, reports the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in its new publication Recent Trends in U.S. Services Trade, 2023 Annual Report. As also noted in the report, preliminary data on U.S. cross-border services trade for 2022 show that total services exports were 15.9 percent higher in 2022 compared to 2021.

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 services sectors and geographic markets that contribute substantially to recent services trade performance.

This year’s report focuses on distribution services, including specific discussions on retail supply chains, e-commerce, logistics, warehousing, maritime shipping, port services, trucking and rail, air cargo, and express delivery via drones. Each section analyzes global market conditions in the industry and summarizes the industry’s outlook.

The report describes detailed trade in services via cross-border transactions through 2021 and via affiliate sales through 2020, as well as preliminary cross-border trade data for 2022 (latest available data). Several highlights are listed below.

  • In 2021, the services sector represented the largest sector of the U.S. economy, and the United States is the world’s top cross-border exporter and importer of services. U.S. exports of private services totaled $771.9 billion, whereas imports totaled $524.9 billion, resulting in a $247.0 billion trade surplus.
  • 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—totaled $1.6 trillion in 2020 while the value of services purchased from foreign-owned affiliates in the United States totaled $1.2 trillion. 
  • The distribution services sector includes a wide range of activities that facilitate the movement of goods through the supply chain from producer to end consumer. Distribution services accounted for 7.1 percent of total cross-border services exports and 17.4 percent of imports in 2021. They represented 27.4 percent of total sales by the foreign affiliates of U.S. firms and 29.5 percent of total purchases from the U.S. affiliates of foreign firms in 2020.

Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for global supply chains and the distribution services that enable them, while recent volatility in consumer demand for goods imports and pandemic-related measures disrupted distribution and transportation networks. At the same time, firms have adopted new technologies to improve competitiveness and reach new customers. Distribution networks, including retail, logistics, and warehousing, adapted to these developments in a myriad of ways. In particular:

  • In retail supply chains, the pandemic highlighted the limits of longstanding global supply chain practices such as just-in-time inventory management, with firms shifting to focus on supply chain resiliency and increasing transparency;
  • In e-commerce, global e-commerce marketplace platforms have increasingly allowed small and medium-sized enterprises to reach foreign customers, driven by advances in digital technology;
  • In logistics, innovation (including adoption of data analytics and tracking technologies) and new business models helped the industry improve efficiency competitiveness; and
  • In warehousing, increased demand led to rapid growth in the sector while highlighting labor issues such as high turnover, labor availability issues, and injuries.

Pandemic-related disruptions also led to recent developments in transportation services, including maritime shipping, ports, trucking and rail, air cargo, and express delivery via drone.

  • In maritime shipping, increased demand for sea freight led to record profitability for carriers and increased government scrutiny of the industry.
  • In port services, congestion resulted in increased wait times, delays, and costs at ports, while spurring investment in port expansion and automation, but delays and prices have fallen sharply since late 2022.
  • In trucking and rail, the pandemic exacerbated longstanding labor issues in these networks, which are vital in connecting consumers to global supply chains.
  • In air cargo, passenger air travel was disrupted during the pandemic, decreasing air cargo capacity, while the entry of new air cargo providers in the sector led to increased competition.
  • In express delivery via drone, the market remained small and was developing slowly, but firms continue to pilot new drone delivery projects.

The USITC hosted its 16th annual Services Roundtable, which was held virtually, on November 2, 2022. The discussion, summarized in the report, focused on recent global economic and political shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic and trade policy uncertainty, as well as the impact of these shocks on distribution services.

Recent Trends in U.S. Services Trade, 2023 Annual Report (Investigation No. 332-594, USITC publication 5431, May 2023) is available on the USITC's Internet site at The link to the interactive dashboard is:


About factfinding investigations: USITC general factfinding investigations, such as this one, cover matters related to tariffs, trade, and competitiveness and are generally conducted under section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930 at the request of the U.S. Trade Representative, the House Committee on Ways and Means, or the Senate Committee on Finance. The resulting reports convey the Commission’s objective findings and independent analyses on the subjects investigated. The Commission makes no recommendations on policy or other matters in its general factfinding reports. Upon completion of each investigation, the USITC submits its findings and analyses to the requester. General factfinding investigation reports are subsequently released to the public unless they are classified by the requester for national security reasons.

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