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When The Trade Data Does Not Add Up

Monday, October 31, 2016 10:14
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Anyone have the answer? This is from Brad Setser:

When The Trade Data Does Not Add Up: This is … about a rather puzzling thing that I only noticed as a result of the Brexit debate. …

A big part of the non-EU surplus in services comes from the United States. In 2015, the UK reported a 27 billion GBP (just over $40 billion) surplus in services trade with the U.S. and an overall surplus in goods and services with the United States.

The funny thing? The U.S. also thinks it runs a surplus in services trade with the UK. A $14 billion surplus in 2015…

It is pretty hard to square those two data points. UK data is from the Office of National Statistics’ Pink Book, U.S. data is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), table 1.3 of the “International Transactions” data set.

It turns out that the U.S. thinks it sells more services to the UK than the UK thinks it buys…

And the UK thinks it sells more services to the U.S. than the U.S. thinks it buys. …

My guess is that such discrepancies are actually common in the services trade numbers. Goods trade is calculated by customs bureaus. Lots of the numbers on services trade come from surveys, estimates, and the like.

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