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Measuring International Trade in Services

In: International Trade in Services and Intangibles in the Era of Globalization

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  • Robert E. Lipsey

Abstract

World trade in services has recently been a little under $US2 trillion, about a quarter of world trade in goods. That ratio does not appear to have changed much in the last 50 years. For the US, exports of services have recently been over 40% and imports about 20% of exports and imports of goods, a return, for exports to the ratios of the early 1800s. Imports of services are now increasing more rapidly than exports, but not faster than goods imports. Because measures of service trade are not anchored in any observation of physical movement, they are dependent on definitions of residence. An example of that dependence and the ambiguities it creates is exports of educational services, a domestic activity that becomes an export because students are defined as foreign residents. Since many students later become US residents, the supposedly exported service never leaves the US, or returns to the US unobserved and uncounted. A particularly serious problem of measurement is the growing transfer of intangible US corporate assets to foreign affiliates of US firms, some of which use virtually no foreign factors of production. These transfers, mainly for tax saving purposes, give rise to phantom flows of services from the foreign affiliates to the US and to other countries and remove the exports from the U.S. balance of payments. They make the meaning of measures of the current balances and GDP ambiguous. One possible solution to the measurement problems would be to use measures assigning at least intangible assets to countries of ownership, rather than nominal residence.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Marshall Reinsdorf & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2009. "International Trade in Services and Intangibles in the Era of Globalization," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rein09-1.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11605.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11605

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    Cited by:
    1. Tobal, Martin, 2011. "A Rationale For Evidence On Service Offshoring," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt5s4056z6, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
    2. Guilló, María Dolores & Pérez-Sebastián, Fidel, 2012. "Neoclassical Growth and the Natural Resource Curse Puzzle," QM&ET Working Papers 12-14, Universidad de Alicante, Departamento de Métodos Cuantitativos y Teoría Económica.
    3. Holger Breinlich & Chiara Criscuolo, 2008. "Service traders in the UK," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28512, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Rosario Crinò, 2007. "Service Offshoring and White-Collar Employment," CESifo Working Paper Series 2040, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Breinlich, Holger & Criscuolo, Chiara, 2011. "International trade in services: A portrait of importers and exporters," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 188-206, July.
    6. Dirk Engel & Jochen Dehio & Roland Döhrn & Ronald Janßen-Timmen & Markus Scheuer & Joel Stiebale, 2007. "Internationalisierung der IT-Dienstleister - Eine Bestandsaufnahme," RWI Materialien, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, pages 72, 06.
    7. Joshua Aizenman & Ilan Noy, 2008. "Links between Trade and Finance: A Disaggregated Analysis," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Markets Volatility and Performance in Emerging Markets, pages 9-28 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Emanuele Forlani, 2010. "Competition in the Service Sector and the Performances of Manufacturing Firms: Does Liberalization Matter?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2942, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Barry Bosworth & Susan Collins & Gabriel Chodorow-Reich, . "Returns on FDI. Does the U.S. Really Do Better?," Working Paper 90801, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    10. Roe, Terry L. & Shane, Mathew & Heerman, Kari, 2011. "Macroeconomic Imbalances in the World Economy," Working Papers 109244, University of Minnesota, Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy.
    11. Rosario Crinò, 2007. "Offshoring, Multinationals and Labor Market: A Review of the Empirical Literature," KITeS Working Papers 196, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Jan 2007.
    12. Stefano Federico & Enrico Tosti, 2012. "Exporters and importers of services: firm-level evidence on Italy," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 877, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    13. Florence Duvivier & Carine Peeters, 2011. "The use of expatriates in the offshoring of services - Framework and research propositions," Working Papers CEB 11-059, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    14. Alexandra Heath, 2007. "What explains the US net income balance?," BIS Working Papers 223, Bank for International Settlements.
    15. Koopmann, Georg & Straubhaar, Thomas, 2008. "Zur Internationalisierung des Dienstleistungssektors," HWWI Research Papers 2-13, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
    16. Peter Havlik & Olga Pindyuk & Roman Stöllinger, 2009. "Trade in Goods and Services between the EU and the BRICs," wiiw Research Reports 357, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
    17. Carol A. Robbins, 2009. "Measuring Payments for the Supply and Use of Intellectual Property," NBER Chapters, in: International Trade in Services and Intangibles in the Era of Globalization, pages 139-171 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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