Int'l Accounts - International Trade
This paper reviews the similar paths followed by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to measure international services categorized by mode of supply. Most notably, these agencies have adopted a similar survey form that uses an innovative approach to collect information on mode of supply by simply having companies report the percentage of its services supplied though one mode as opposed to all modes, with the idea that the other modes can be estimated as a residual or using other data sources. Prior to these efforts by ONS and BEA, few countries had attempted to measure trade in services by mode of supply, and in these few cases, most measures had been based on assumptions about industry practices or on surveys that only asked for the predominant mode of supply rather than a more precise percentage supplied by mode.
This paper reviews the efforts of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to measure international services categorized by mode of supply. BEA has adopted a survey form that uses an innovative approach to collect information on mode of supply by simply having companies report the percentage of its services supplied through one mode as opposed to all modes, with the idea that the other modes can be estimated as a residual or using other data sources. Of the few previous efforts by countries to measure trade by mode of supply, most are based on assumptions about industry practices or on surveys that simply asked for the predominant mode of supply rather than a more precise percentage supplied by mode. BEA also uses a pioneering method to measure services supplied through affiliates across service types by mapping its comprehensive industry-based foreign affiliate statistics to its product-based trade statistics. The estimates also include a breakdown of the mode where consumers obtain the service outside their home territory, such as services received when traveling abroad, that more closely corresponds with guidelines set out in the General Agreement on Trade in Services than most previous efforts.
The United States and the European Union are the foremost trading partners in the world, with total bilateral current-account transactions exceeding $1.8 trillion in 2017, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat). In 2017, the 28 Member States of the European Union accounted for more than 26 percent of U.S. current-account transactions, while the United States accounted for more than 23 percent of EU current-account transactions with countries outside the EU (extra–EU). The current account, a major component of a country’s balance of payments accounts, shows economic transactions of an economy with the rest of the world and provides valuable information about how economies are intertwined globally. Persistent bilateral asymmetries—differences in the statistics reported by the United States and the EU Member States—have led to questions about the interpretation of the statistics by data users. A reduction in these asymmetries would be a major step towards increasing confidence in the statistics. This paper presents an overview of findings on asymmetries in current-account statistics for the EU and individual Member States as reported by Eurostat, and for the United States as reported by BEA. A quantitative analysis of the largest asymmetries in these accounts is accompanied by a discussion of the different concepts and methods underlying the EU and U.S. statistics that help explain the causes of these asymmetries. Current-account transactions are compiled and presented in the balance of payments framework based on conceptual and presentational guidelines promulgated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 6th edition (hereafter cited as “BPM6”). Standard presentations of the statistics recommended in BPM6 facilitate comparisons of the current-account statistics published by different countries. This paper focuses on the components with the largest asymmetries, trade in services and cross-border primary income flows, about which there is little documentation in international literature as to the underlying reasons for the asymmetries. The analysis of asymmetries is based on a comparison of the values reported by two countries for the same set of bilateral trade transactions.
The internationally agreed guidelines for national economic accounts, System of National Accounts 2008 (hereafter referred to as SNA 2008) (United Nations Statistics Division 2008), explicitly recommend that illegal market activity should be included in the measured economy. This recommendation has not yet been implemented by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) because of challenges inherent in identifying suitable source data and differences in conceptual traditions. This paper explores how tracking illegal activity in the U.S. national economic accounts might impact nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP), real GDP, productivity, and other economic statistics. Nominal GDP rises in 2017 by more than 1 percent when illegal activity is tracked in the U.S. National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs). By category, illegal drugs add $108 billion to measured nominal GDP in 2017, illegal prostitution adds $10 billion, illegal gambling adds $4 billion, and theft from businesses adds $109 billion. Real GDP and productivity growth also change. Real illegal output grew faster than overall GDP during the 1970s and post–2008. As a result, tracking illegal activity ameliorates both the 1970s economic slowdown and the post–2008 economic slowdown considerably.
The European Union (EU) and the United States are the biggest economic partners in international trade in services in the world, with total bilateral trade in 2015 exceeding EUR 400 billion according to the data reported by Eurostat. The United States accounted for close to 30 percent of total Extra-EU trade in services, while for the United States the share of the EU in total trade in services was just over 30 percent. Persistent bilateral asymmetries in trade in services remain, however, a substantial issue and their reduction should lead to improved data quality and increased usefulness of data for users.
This document presents an overview of findings on asymmetries for international trade in services data for the EU-28 and its Member States with the United States, as collected by Eurostat and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Quantitative analysis of the data is accompanied by a discussion of identified differences in applied methodologies that might have contributed to the asymmetries. Data used in the analysis are compiled in the framework of the balance of payments and are based on the methodology in accordance with the IMF Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 6th edition. Due to availability of bilateral figures and better comparability of more aggregated items, the analysis is limited to total services and 10 services components. Data for manufacturing services on physical inputs owned by others (processing abroad) and personal, cultural and recreational services were not available for the United States because BEA does not estimate these services categories. However, values for these items vis-à-vis the United States as estimated by Eurostat have not exceeded 2 percent of total services flows, so they should not significantly impact the overall picture. The asymmetries in services are relatively high compared with asymmetries for trade in goods, being particularly substantial for financial services and other business services. The analysis of the reasons for asymmetries should therefore primarily focus on these service items.
Foreign trade enables a nation to consume a different mix of goods and services than it produces, so to measure real gross domestic income (GDI) for an open economy, we must deflate by an index of the prices of the things that this income is used to buy, not the price index for GDP. The differences between these two indexes come from the export and import components of the GDP, and are measured by the trading gains index. Fisher indexes are a natural way to estimate the conceptual economic indexes of trading gains and real GDI because they are averages of the theoretical upper and lower bounds of the economic indexes. They can be decomposed in a way that permits analyses of the factors driving changes in trading gains, such as changes in the terms of trade and in the relative price of tradables, or changes in the prices of particular commodities. Applying these methods to the United States, we find that trading gains have a median absolute effect on US real GDI of 0.2 percentage points in annual data. The petroleum price shocks that occurred in late 1973 and in 1980 subtracted more than a full percentage point from the annual growth of real GDI, and in the first half of 2008 price increases in petroleum and other imported commodities subtracted 2 percentage points from the annual rate of growth of real GDI, making it negative despite the steady growth of real GDP. On the other hand, with petroleum prices excluded, US terms of trade begin to improve steadily starting in 1995 and the relative price of tradables falls. These effects increase the growth rate of US real GDI by 0.15 percent per year on average.