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U.S. Imports and Exports of Services Continuing to Increase, ITC Finds

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The International Trade Commission’s annual report on trends in U.S. services trade finds that the U.S. remained the world’s largest services market and leading exporter and importer of services in 2011. This report presents a qualitative and quantitative overview of U.S. trade in services and highlights some of the service sectors and geographic markets that have contributed substantially to recent services trade performance. This year’s report, which focuses on professional services and includes separate chapters on the education, healthcare and legal services sectors, includes the following information.

- U.S. cross-border services exports increased 9% to $587 billion in 2011 while imports grew 7% to $393 billion. The U.S. trade surplus in services rose 14% to $194 billion.

- Services supplied abroad by foreign affiliates of U.S. firms continued to exceed services purchased from U.S. affiliates of foreign firms, reaching $1.1 trillion and $696 billion, respectively, in 2010. Leading markets for affiliate sales were the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Ireland. Architectural and engineering services accounted for the largest share of professional services supplied by U.S. foreign affiliates, while advertising services led purchases from U.S. affiliates of foreign firms.

- Professional services accounted for 21% of total U.S. services exports and 19% of total imports and yielded a $49 billion trade surplus in 2011. Leading exports included management and consulting services (26%), research and development and testing services (19%), and education services (18%).

- Professional services exports are subject to a variety of both entry and operational trade barriers in foreign countries. These barriers are often byproducts of policy objectives such as protecting and developing the indigenous workforce and can include economic needs tests and quotas on foreign providers. Other significant barriers include limits on setting up foreign affiliates, requirements that managerial staff be either citizens or permanent residents, and government and private sector certification and licensing requirements.

- The contribution of U.S. professional services to U.S. GDP in 2011 was $2.2 trillion, equal to 24% of the value added by all services and 19% of total private sector GDP. Professional services value-added exceeded all other major services categories, including distribution, financial and electronic services, and grew by 3%.

- Professional services employed 26 million full-time-equivalent employees in 2011, equal to 26% of the total U.S. private sector workforce. Healthcare services accounted for 15 million of these employees.

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