Trade in services by category

Map 1. Growth in services exports by category, 2015–2020
(Average annual growth rate*, percentage)
Note: Europe includes the Russian Federation and the French overseas departments.
* Least squares growth rate (see Calculation methods page).

Regional trends over five years

International trade in services, more so than goods, was heavily influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the exports of travel and transport retracted across the globe. From 2015 to 2019, global services trade enjoyed growth across main services categories on all continents. Africa’s travel exports rose substantially, while other regions registered solid gains in telecommunications and computer services.

As a result of the pandemic, the trends changed drastically. From 2015 to 2020, average annual growth in travel was negative everywhere, with Africa and Oceania recording the smallest relative losses. In transport exports, only Asia and Europe maintained positive growth. Financial, insurance, business, and intellectual property services remained afloat, significantly rising in Asia (6.5 per cent). Telecommunications, computer and information services’ exports gained ground everywhere (close to 10 per cent), except in Africa.

Figure 1. Annual growth rate of services exports, 2020
(Percentage)

Global trends by service category

Figure 2. Structure of services exports, 2020
(Percentage)
Among main service categories (figure 1), telecommunications, computer and information services were the only group recording growth in 2020 (4.1 per cent). Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the international trade in other main categories declined. Travel was most severely affected, losing an immense 63 per cent in one year and strongly upsetting tourism-oriented economies. International transport sales – passengers and freight included – dropped by 20 per cent. Exports of business, intellectual property, financial and insurance services showed more resilience and declined by 3 per cent.

Predominance of developed economies

In 2020, over two thirds of internationally traded services were supplied by developed economies. Insurance, financial, intellectual property and other business services dominated global exports, playing a less prominent role only in Africa. Total services exports of developed economies decreased by 17 per cent in 2020. The drop was 26 per cent in developing economies, where the exports of transport and travel have a more important role.

It remains difficult for the developing world to compete in technology-intensive services markets, except for certain Asian economies. In the fastest growing main service category – telecommunications, computer and information – developing economies outside of Asia and Oceania captured just 2.2 per cent of the global market in 2020.

Figure 3. Exports of telecommunications, computer and information services, by group of economies, 2020
(Percentage)

Concepts and definitions

The breakdown by service category in this section has been built from the division of services in the balance of payments statistics, known as the 2010 Extended Balance of Payments Services Classification (EBOPS 2010) -—
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. For the correspondence to the EBOPS 2010 categories and to the main groups presented in UNCTADstat, see Classifications page.

The presented trade-in-services figures are jointly compiled by UNCTAD and WTO, in cooperation with ITC and UNSD.

Summary tables

Table 1. Trade in services by service category and group of economies
Developed economies
    Developing economies
      Developing economies: Africa
        Developing economies: America
          Developing economies: Asia and Oceania
            Table 2. Exports of selected services, by region, 2020
            (Millions of United States dollars)

            References

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