International trade and balance of payments statistics

International Trade Pulse, OECD - Updated: October 2020


Merchandise trade growth beginning to stabilise but services trade remains weak

‌20 Oct. 2020 - International merchandise trade showed signs of stabilising in August and September, following the strong pick-up in June and July, but it remains around 10-15% below pre-crisis levels in most economies. Services trade, in particular travel and passenger services, remained fragile, with total services trade around 20% below pre-crisis levels.


In Asia-Pacific, merchandise trade in China and Korea is above or close to 2019 levels but services continue to lag behind, especially travel and passenger transport services.

Korea posted robust merchandise trade growth in September 2020. Following the marginal (0.1%) contraction in August, exports expanded by 12.8%, with machinery and transport equipment (including electric vehicles) and computers and home electronics driving growth. Merchandise imports also rebounded in September (up 6.5%, following the 1.1% decrease in August). Korean services trade mirrored the pattern of merchandise trade in August, with exports and imports both falling by 5.2% in August, reflecting weak sales and purchases in business services.

Asia-Pacific: merchandise exports and imports

Source: OECD Statistics and Data Directorate. Index based on current US dollars, seasonally adjusted figures.

China saw merchandise exports contract by 3.2% in September, following marked growth in July and August. Merchandise imports, on the other hand, continued to increase (up 6.6% in September, following the 4.0% growth in August). Exports of computers and parts, which now account for about 8% of China’s total merchandise exports, are up by almost 8% in the year-to-date, mirroring  the growth in imports of integrated circuits (up 14% in the year-to-date), which now account for 17% of China’s merchandise imports. Chinese exports of services however contracted by 6.7% in August, reflecting weak telecommunications, computer and other business services. Imports of services continued to grow (up 2.8% in August following a 0.5% increase in July) as travel continued to recover from the crisis-lows.

Japanese merchandise exports expanded by 6.7% in August, while imports increased moderately (0.8%). Following weak figures in June and July, Japan’s services imports bounced back strongly in August (by 11.7%). Services exports continued to contract however (by 1.0%), as sales of business services, telecommunications and computer services remained weak. 

Merchandise exports grew by 1.5% in Australia in August, as foreign demand for metal ores and coal picked-up. Similarly, imports were up 2.3% on the back of higher demand for consumer goods. Australia’s services exports declined marginally (minus 0.2%), as further contractions in travel and passenger transport offset growth in other service items. Imports of services increased by 3.7%. 


In the Americas, merchandise trade continued to grow in August and September but at a slower rate than in July. Services trade remained weak and significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels.

Americas, Merchandise exports and imports

Source: OECD Statistics and Data Directorate. Index based on current US dollars, seasonally adjusted figures.

Following strong growth in July (exports up 13.0% and imports 14.4%), Canada’s merchandise trade growth slowed in August (exports up 2.0% and imports 0.5%). Services trade also grew moderately in August (exports up 3.3% and imports 0.5%) as travel began to recover (up 32% and 51% for exports and imports, respectively) albeit from very low levels. 

The United States also saw merchandise trade growth slow in August (exports up 3.0% and imports 3.3%) compared to July (up 12.1% and 12.4% for exports and imports), with agricultural products (including soybeans) driving exports and pharmaceutical products, other consumer goods, and transport equipmentdriving imports. Exports of services, on the other hand, continued to stagnate. With further declines in international students, travel exports continued to plumb new lows, as they have done since March, and, so, total services increased by only a marginal 0.3% in August. Computer, business services and services related to intellectual property rights, however, continued to grow. Services imports increased by 2.4% in August, as transport and travel maintained their recovery from the crisis. 

Brazilian merchandise exports were broadly flat in August (minus 0.6%) and September (up 0.6%). Imports expanded by 10.6% in August but more moderately in September (up 1.1%). Services exports in August (up 8.5%) partially recovered, following the 17.2% dip in July. Conversely, imports decreased by 2.1% having increased 12.3% in July. 


In Europe, merchandise trade stabilised in August. On the services side, the vacation period helped boost exports but imports lost pace due to declining purchases of business services. 

France saw firm growth in merchandise exports (up 6.5%) and imports (up 5.5%) in August but at a slower pace than in July (9.9% and 7.2%). French exports and imports of machinery appear to have stabilised after a recovery phase (but remain below 2019 average levels). Following strong growth in June and July, services trade slowed with exports contracting by 0.8% and imports by a more pronounced 7.2%. Exports of travel, continued to recover (up 8.5% in August) but they remain around 30% below 2019 levels.

Europe, merchandise exports and imports

Source: OECD Statistics and Data Directorate. Index based on current US dollars, seasonally adjusted

Merchandise export growth in August also slowed, albeit only slightly, in Germany (6.2% compared to 6.9% in July) but import growth picked up (to 7.4%, compared to 4.4% in July). However, levels remain around 10% below those recorded in 2019, with trade with the United Kingdom and the United States particularly affected, although trade with China is almost back to 2019 levels. Exports and imports of services increased by 2.2% and 4.2%, respectively, and travel imports continued to improve from the lows recorded in the spring (up 11.6% in August). 

In the United Kingdom, merchandise exports (up 11.3%) and imports (up 7.7%) continued to grow (following a 6.4% and 9.4% increase in July, respectively). Exports of services increased by 6.3% in August, while imports grew by 2.5%, driven by business and financial services. 

Russia saw merchandise exports fall by 3.8% in August, in part reflecting weak energy prices, and exports are now around one-third lower than August 2019 levels, but imports grew by 4.3%. On the back of stronger sales of construction, computer and business services, exports of services from Russia continued to improve in August (up 18.9% following 7.4% in July), but imports declined by 2.7% in August 2020. 

Table 1: Merchandise trade for selected economies
Previous period growth rates in %

Merchandise trade – selected economies, Previous period growth rate in %

Source: OECD Statistics and Data Directorate. Growth rates refer to current US dollars, seasonally adjusted figures.

Table 2: Trade in services for selected economies

Previous period growth rates in %

Trade in services – selected economies,  Previous period growth rate in %

Source: OECD Statistics and Data Directorate based on national sources. Growth rates refer to current US dollars, seasonally adjusted figures.



Next publication date: 17 November 2020



This note attempts to provide a timely picture on international trade by bringing together the latest data on those countries where data are available. For any question, contact the OECD Statistics and Data Directorate at





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