Ingo Borchert, Joscelyn Magdeleine, Juan Marchetti, Aaditya Mattoo, 20 June 2020

Despite the growing importance of services in output and trade, there has been relatively little information on how services policies have evolved over the past decades. This column presents evidence on services trade policies from a new database created by the World Bank and WTO. It reveals that higher income economies are more open on average than developing economies, but the chronology of reform varies across sectors. In addition, while explicit restrictions are being lowered, regulatory scrutiny is increasing in most sectors, especially in higher income economies.

Andrea Ariu, Florian Mayneris, Mathieu Parenti, 06 February 2020

Many large and successful firms sell both goods and services; yet economists and policymakers continue to consider the two as distinct sectors subject to their own market adjustments and specific policies. Based on Belgian data, this column argues that the most successful manufacturing firms thrive through selling services that are associated with their goods. Services increase the appeal of a firm’s products, thus allowing it to sell more and at higher prices in international markets. Considering goods and services separately in trade agreement negotiations is likely to miss part of the business and welfare gains and losses. 

Andrea Ariu, Katariina Nilsson Hakkala , J. Bradford Jensen, Saara Tamminen, 22 November 2019

Global trade in services increased six-fold between 1990-2017, representing a threat for workers but a growth opportunity for firms that source these services at lowest cost. This column examines the changes in employment composition and performance of Finnish service importers. Firms that increased imports of service inputs reduced employment of low-skill service workers but increased employment of managers. They also improved their sales, assets, and service exports, and were more likely to survive.

Fariha Kamal, 07 July 2019

‘Factoryless’ goods producing entities outsource physical transformation activities while retaining ownership of the intellectual property and control of sales to customers. Using 2012 data from the US Census Bureau, this column provides a new conceptual definition of factoryless activity. It also compares factoryless goods producer firms to service providers outside the manufacturing sector, and hybrid manufacturers to traditional manufacturers within the manufacturing sector. The analysis reveals several meaningful correlations between factoryless status at the firm level and conceptual variables such as employment mix, innovation, and importing activities.

Giuseppe Berlingieri, Sara Calligaris, Chiara Criscuolo, 19 September 2018

The evidence that bigger firms pay higher wages and have higher productivity is mainly based on manufacturing, which nowadays accounts for a small share of the economy. Drawing on a unique micro-aggregated dataset, this column reveals that while the size premia for both wages and productivity are significantly weaker in market services than in manufacturing, the link between wages and productivity is stronger – the most productive firms at the top are not necessarily the largest ones in terms of employment, but they do pay the best. This increases the likelihood of productivity and wage gains being shared with fewer workers, a further challenge to achieving inclusive growth in the new service economy.

Woori Lee, 30 June 2018

Participation in global value chains is a key element of the industrialisation strategies of developing nations. To date, most research has focused on goods and the manufacturing sector. This column explores the role of services in global value chains. Trade agreements that liberalise services are found to foster global value chain trade, especially for developing country exporters and those that allow service exports without local presence.

Georg Duernecker, Berthold Herrendorf, Akos Valentinyi, 16 May 2018

Baumol argued that structural change may lead to a productivity slowdown due to a reallocation of production to service industries with low productivity growth. This column uses a new framework to estimate the effects of Baumol’s disease on future productivity growth in the US. The results suggest that future structural change will not reduce productivity much further thanks to substitutability within the broader service sector.

Koen De Backer, Sébastien Miroudot, Davide Rigo, 19 April 2018

Multinational enterprises that produce goods rely on services to organise their value chain, so barriers to investment in services are likely to affect their production. The column uses a new and comprehensive OECD database to measure the share of services in the exports of multinational enterprises, and also in the output of their foreign affiliates. The results suggest that policymakers may need to focus more on the services that support manufacturing industries.

Bernard Hoekman, Anirudh Shingal, 13 September 2017

Research on the effects of Aid for Trade has focused mostly on merchandise trade and investment in developing countries. This column discusses the relationship between Aid for Trade and trade in services and finds that while most Aid for Trade is allocated to service sectors, this is not associated with greater trade in services, in contrast to what is observed for trade in goods. These findings suggest that Aid for Trade could do more to target capacity weaknesses that constrain growth in services trade.

, 06 September 2017

Will the UK remain in the EU's customs union? This video explains the implications of remaining in the customs union, and how it would affect trade. This video was recorded at the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex (UKTPO) in August 2017.

Ejaz Ghani, Stephen O'Connell, 15 June 2017

There are concerns that the premature deindustrialisation experienced by low-income countries in Africa and South Asia will negatively affect their growth. This column argues that this is not the case, since services, rather than manufacturing, are driving growth in the developing world. While demographics and urbanisation can help growth in low-income countries, the low quality of physical infrastructure is a major challenge.

Lucian Cernat, 17 January 2017

The availability of statistics on services by modes of supply has been a longstanding priority for trade negotiators and an important element of other trade policy priorities. Based on a recent Eurostat project, this column presents the first such estimates for EU trade in services. It also explores possible avenues for building a global services dataset by modes of supply building on the latest European initiatives in this area.

Andrea Ariu, 03 October 2016

During the Global Crisis, trade in goods collapsed dramatically. Surprisingly, however, trade in services continued its upward trend. This column discusses how goods and services exporters reacted to the crisis and suggests that services exports are less sensitive to income shocks in destination countries.


We invite submissions of papers and expressions of interest in attending the Second Empirical Investigations in Services Trade (EIST) conference. The meeting will take place on June 15-16 in Florence, Italy, hosted by the Global Governance Programme of the Robert Schuman Centre, European University Institute.

The theme of the conference is economic analysis of trade and investment in services. We welcome submissions related to any aspect of international trade and investment in services, including empirical analyses of sectoral policy and regulation and trade and investment agreements, analysis using firm-level data, and papers on the role of services in value chains.

James Anderson, Ingo Borchert, Aaditya Mattoo, Yoto Yotov, 21 October 2015

Policy barriers to services trade comprise relatively opaque and hard-to-measure regulations. This column provides novel estimates that reveal that services trade barriers are large but have generally fallen over time, with pronounced differences across sectors and countries. Trade barriers have declined less for small economies and for sectors where initial borders were high.

Alexandra L. Cermeño, 12 July 2015

Economic historians tend to explain US geographical development gaps in terms of industrialisation. But by the end of the 20th century, the richest counties had become specialised in services, rather than in manufacturing. This column evaluates how the service economy triggered this evident contrast between the urban and rural US. Market size causes localisation of non-agricultural activity, with the effect being stronger for services, especially knowledge services. Local policymakers can thus foster growth by attracting high-skilled workers to a region, with the multiplier effect eventually increasing the local market.

Gianmarco Ottaviano, Giovanni Peri, Greg Wright, 17 June 2015

International trade in services and immigration are among the fastest growing aspects of globalisation. Using UK data, this column explores the links between these phenomena. Immigrants promote exports of final services to their home countries, while also reducing imports for some intermediate services, and bringing productivity gains to the labour market. In designing immigration policies, it is important that the potential impact on exports and offshoring activities are carefully considered.

Uri Dadush, 13 March 2015

Manufacturing is often seen as the key to sustainable export and productivity growth in developing countries. This column argues that, while manufacturing played a key role in some countries’ development, high growth can be sustained without relying primarily on manufacturing. A process of learning, productivity improvement, and investment that touches all sectors characterises the most successful economies. Policies that artificially favour manufacturing should instead give way to maximising learning from the frontier in all sectors of the economy.

Magnus Lodefalk, 16 January 2015

The manufacturing sector in OECD countries increasingly buys, produces, sells and exports services. This is now known as the servicification of manufacturing. This column, using firm-level data from Sweden, shows that as firms’ share of in-house services increases, so does their export intensity. The increasing complementarities between services and trade in goods thus imply that the different trade policies for goods and services are an antiquated divide.



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