Discussion paper

DP7837 International Trade in Services: A Portrait of Importers and Exporters

We provide a novel set of stylized facts on firms engaging in international trade in services, using unique data on firm-level exports and imports from the world's second largest services exporter, the United Kingdom (UK). We show that only a fraction of UK firms engage in international trade in services, that trade participation varies widely across industries and that services traders are different from non-traders in terms of size, productivity and other firm characteristics. We also provide detailed evidence on the trading patterns of services exporters and importers, such as the number of markets served, the value of exports and imports per market and the share of individual markets in overall sales. We interpret these facts in the light of existing theories of international trade in services and goods. Our results demonstrate that firm-level heterogeneity is a key feature of services trade. Also, we find many similarities between services and goods trade at the firm level and conclude that existing heterogeneous firm models for goods trade will be a good starting point for explaining trade in services as well.


Criscuolo, C and H Breinlich (2010), ‘DP7837 International Trade in Services: A Portrait of Importers and Exporters‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 7837. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp7837