International trade in services – Overview


Image illustrating trade in services © KAMONRAT /

Which information can I find here?

Statistics on international trade in services record services transactions between residents and non-residents.

These statistics distinguish between transactions among EU Member States (intra-EU transactions) and transactions of EU Member States with non-member countries (extra-EU transactions). For a given country (or geographical area) the total trade in services includes international transactions with all countries of the world and equals the sum of intra-EU and extra-EU transactions.

International trade in services statistics provide monetary values by type of service and by partner country.

What kinds of services are covered?

The term 'services' covers a heterogeneous range of intangible products and activities that are difficult to encapsulate within a simple definition.

Services are the result of a production activity that changes the conditions of the consuming units (transformation services) or facilitate the exchange of products or financial assets (margin services). Services are often difficult to separate from goods with which they may be associated in varying degrees.

Services are classified according to the following main categories:

  • Manufacturing services on physical inputs owned by others
  • Maintenance and repair services, not included elsewhere
  • Transport
  • Travel
  • Construction
  • Insurance and pension services
  • Financial services
  • Charges for the use of intellectual property, not included elsewhere
  • Telecommunication, computer and information services
  • Other business services
  • Personal, cultural and recreational services
  • Government goods and services, not included elsewhere

For further information, please see the page 'Methodology' in this section. 

The provision of services often requires the physical proximity of customer and supplier, for example accommodation services. On the other hand, nowadays services are increasingly supplied via electronic means (over the internet, by phone/email, etc.). Services may be supplied also through foreign affiliates in the host country (e.g. a non-resident bank creates a subsidiary in the host economy to supply banking services). For further details on how services are supplied, please have a look at the page in this section describing our project on Modes of supply.

How are the statistics produced?

Statistics on international trade in services are produced from the transactions recorded under a country’s balance of payments, which capture all transactions that take place between an economy’s residents and non-residents.

A wide range of data sources are used: surveys of enterprises,  administrative data sources,  the international transactions reporting system (ITRS), data from international organizations, information obtained from partner countries, household surveys and also credit card and mobile phone data.

Why are statistics on trade in services important?

Services play a major role in all modern economies: an efficient services sector is considered to be crucial for trade and economic growth as well as for dynamic and resilient economies.

In this era of increasingly interconnected economies, enterprises may operate in several countries and have trading partners all over the world. This is also reflected in the rising importance of cross-border trade in services. In this setting, international trade flows have become more complex, forming global value chains.

Services provide vital support to the economy as a whole and more specifically to industry, for example through finance, logistics and communications. Increased trade in services and widespread availability of services may boost economic growth by improving the performance of other industries, since services can provide key intermediate inputs, especially in an increasingly interlinked and globalised world.

> Read more


Direct access to...

Explore Further