Trade Policy at Work

Services Trade Data in LDCs & LICs: Challenges, “better performers” and pathways for improvement

Measuring and ensuring availability of data on services trade flows have been a long-standing challenge for meaningful economic analyses and informing trade negotiators. Despite improvements in its international availability, services trade data remains largely unavailable for bilateral trade and more disaggregated sectors, especially in the case of South-South trading partners. This has obvious adverse implications for the ability of many Low-income (LICs) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to meaningfully negotiate services. Nevertheless, some have performed better than others at collecting, compiling and reporting on services trade data. This paper identifies good practices successfully adopted by these “better performers”, which could be replicated in other countries. It suggests that, more than the level of economic development itself, key determinants of success are an enabling legislative provisions, the use of multiple data sources and checks and balances, as well as securing external technical assistance.