Recent Trends in U.S. Services Trade, 2014 Annual Report

Publication Type: 
Industry & Econ Analysis (332)
Publication Topic: 
Service Industries
Publication Number: 
Investigation No.: 
USITC Publication 4463

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 annual review of U.S. trade in services.

This year's report focuses on electronic services and includes chapters on three specific industries: audiovisual services, computer services, and telecommunication services.

The 2014 report covers 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.

  • In 2012, electronic services accounted for only about 3 percent of total private sector employment, or 3.3 million full-time equivalent (FTE) employees.

  • A variety of impediments restrict trade in electronic services, such as localization requirements for computer servers; online privacy protection measures that restrict cross-border data flows (such as those in the European Union); limits on foreign investment and on competition in several countries' telecommunication sectors; 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.


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