U.S. Trade in Services: Trends and Policy Issues

Publication Date: January 2020

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Author(s): Rachel F. Fefer

Research Area: Trade

Type: Report


Trade in “services” refers to a wide and growing range of economic activities. These activities include transport, tourism, financial services, use of intellectual property, telecommunications and information services, government services, maintenance, and other professional services from accounting to legal services. Compared to goods, the types and volume of services that can be traded are limited by factors such as the requirement for direct buyer-provider contact, and other unique characteristics such as the reusability of services (e.g., professional consulting) for which traditional value measures do not account. In addition to services as independent exports, manufactured and agricultural products incorporate and depend on services, such as research and development or shipping of intermediate or final goods. As services account for 71% of U.S. employment, U.S. trade in services, both services as exports and as inputs to other exported products, can have a broad impact across the U.S. economy.