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Services Imports and Exports Continue to Increase, Report Finds

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The U.S. remains the world’s largest services market and continued to be the world’s leading exporter and importer of services in 2017, according to the International Trade Commission’s latest annual report on trends in U.S. services trade. This year’s report focuses on distribution services and includes chapters on logistics services, maritime transport services, and retail services that analyze global market conditions in each industry, examine recent trade performance, and summarize the industry’s outlook.

Highlights of this year’s report, which describes trade in services via cross-border transactions through 2017 and via affiliate sales through 2016, include the following.

- In 2017 the value of U.S. commercial services exports was $778.4 billion (15 percent of the global total, and up 6.1 percent from 2016), while imports totaled $520.4 billion (10 percent of the global total, and up 7.7 percent from 2016).

- Preliminary data indicate that U.S. services exports increased by 3.4 percent to $805.7 billion in 2018 while imports rose by 4.3 percent to $544.3 billion.

- The United Kingdom was the largest U.S. services trade partner in 2017 in terms of both imports and exports. The other top export markets were Canada, China, Ireland, and Japan, while the top import sources were Germany, Japan, Canada, and India.

- Sales of services by foreign affiliates of U.S. firms – the leading channel by which many U.S. services are delivered to foreign markets – totaled $1.4 trillion in 2016 (no change) while the value of services purchased from foreign-owned affiliates in the U.S. totaled $876.9 billion (down 7.9 percent).

- Distribution services accounted for 6 percent of U.S. cross-border services exports and 12 percent of imports in 2017.

- Distribution services accounted for about 29 percent of total sales by foreign affiliates of U.S. firms and 30 percent of total purchases from foreign-owned firms in the U.S.

- The contribution of private sector distribution services to U.S. gross domestic product was $2.7 trillion in 2017, accounting for 17 percent of U.S. private sector GDP. From 2016 to 2017 distribution services grew by 3.2 percent, faster than the 2.1 percent growth rate experienced by private sector GDP as a whole.

- Wholesale trade was the largest category of distribution services, accounting for 41 percent of the sector’s contribution to U.S. private sector GDP, followed by retail trade (39 percent). From 2016 to 2017, GDP in wholesale trade grew by roughly 2 percent while retail trade and transportation and warehousing each grew by 4 percent.

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