MSITS 2010 recommends that statistics on international trade in services be compiled on an individual trading partner basis, at least at the level of the 12 major components of the BPM6 classification of services, and, where possible, at the more detailed EBOPS 2010 level. The production of these statistics is one of the core recommendations in MSITS 2010. It is recognized, however, that compiling statistics by trading partner is resource-intensive and may be difficult owing to issues related to disclosure and incompleteness of information. MSITS 2010 therefore recommends that those statistics identified by compilers as most relevant to their economies be compiled at a detailed partner economy level. Thus, compilers should give priority to deriving data on trade in services for the main trading partners of their economies.
Exchange of statistics between countries (especially main partners) is seen as a particularly relevant exercise for compilers of statistics on the international supply of services. However, bilateral (or “mirror”) statistics should not be seen as a major data source on their own, but should rather serve as a reference for checking and adjusting collected data. In this connection, it should be noted that due to differences in applied concepts and data collection/compilation procedures, such “mirror” data should be consulted with caution and after necessary reconciliation. It is also a well-known phenomenon that mirror statistics on the international supply of services often contain asymmetries, due at least in part to coverage, sampling and methodological differences.
Efforts are being made to explain and reconcile these differences. For example, an investigation into bilateral asymmetries between the United States and Canada is presented in the Compilers Guide to the MSITS2010 (available here: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/trade/publications/MSITS2010_Compilers%20Guide%20-%20Unedited%20White%20Cover%20Version%20-%2016%20December%202014.pdf) and attached below.
UNSD paper on Asymmetries in official international trade statistics and analysis of globalization – see section D on trade in services
IMF Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics, 2004: International Trade in Services Statistics—Monitoring Progress on Implementation of the Manual and Assessing Data Quality
IMF Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics, 2007: Preliminary Investigations into Asymmetries in Bilateral Trade in Services Between the USA and the UK
World Bank Trade in Services Database and documentation. This database includes data from 1985-2011 and tries consolidate multiple sources of bilateral trade data in services using mirror techniques, including the OECD, Eurostat, UN and IMF, as to provide a broader coverage of developed and developing countries over time.