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 Country experience: United States of America  

2.21.        The authority to collect statistics of international trade in services in the United States is ultimately delegated to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), a statistical agency within the Department of Commerce.  The primary legal provision enabling the Bureau to collect information in a timely manner from relevant institutions is known as the International Investment and Trade in Services Survey Act (22 U.S.C. 3101).[1] Provisions in the Act state that United States entities (i.e., businesses, universities, hospitals, etc.) engaged in international investment and trade in services are required to report their international transactions on a periodic basis to BEA. The Act specifies that the survey data may be used only for statistical and analytical purposes. Access to the data is limited to officials and employees (including consultants and contractors and their employees) of government agencies that are designated by the President to perform functions under the Act. Certain other government agencies may be granted access to the data under the Foreign Direct Investment and International Financial Data Improvements Act of 1990, but only for limited statistical purposes. BEA is prohibited from granting another agency access to the data for tax, investigative or regulatory purposes, nor can it publish or otherwise release the data collected in its surveys in a form that would allow the transactions of an individual reporter to be identified.

2.22.        The other primary legal provision governing the collection of resident/non-resident trade in services statistics and FATS data is the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. By the provisions of the Act, United States government surveys must undergo an approval process in which the agency in charge of collecting the data is required to demonstrate to the approving authority (the Office of Management and Budget) the following three conditions: (a) the intended data are necessary; (b) they cannot be obtained from an existing source; and (c) their collection does not place an unreasonable burden on respondents. As part of the survey design and clearance process, BEA  publishes notices about proposed surveys in the Federal Register. In those notices, BEA requests comments from users and respondents on all aspects of data collection, including the estimate by BEA of the burden imposed by the reporting requirements. BEA considers all comments before making final decisions on the scope and design of its surveys and makes every effort to balance the needs of data users for complete, accurate, detailed and timely data with the concerns of respondents about the burden imposed by the reporting requirements. By convention, approval of a given survey must be renewed within three years.

 

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[1] See United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, A Guide To BEA’s Services Surveys (Washington, D.C.). Available from www.bea.gov/surveys/pdf/surveysu.pdf.