Go with the Flow: Bloomberg’s Trade Flow Function

China deficit_reducedBloomberg’s Trade Flow function (ECTR) has recently been updated. It provides an easy way to produce tables and graphs for world trade including data on total trade, surplus/deficit, exports/imports and net exports. Time series go back to 1980 and include yearly, quarterly, and monthly data. Geographic detail includes geographic regions, 251 countries, and geopolitical regions such as BRICS and the EU.

Bloomberg uses import data provided by the IMF. Bloomberg then determines the figures for exports by imputing them from imports. For example, country A’s exports to Country B are given as Country B’s imports from country A.  This calculation is done to make world total imports and exports equal. Reported export figures of countries tend to be lower, and are assumed to be less accurate, than import figures. For example, the IMF reports Total World exports in 2012 as 18,097.2 billion U.S. dollars and Total World imports as 18.267.0 billion dollars. The World seems to have misplaced about 170 billion dollars.

The graphic of China’s trade deficit in 2012 (shown below) displays its trade with the top 20 country trading partners ranked by the size of the deficit. The lines linking country names are color coded indicating the relative size of the deficit. Mousing over the lines will indicate imports and exports between China and its partners. Mousing over the country’s names will show their total imports and exports in world trade.

China deficit

The following Excel table shows the first few entries for China’s trade with individual trading partners, including individual countries, geographical, and political groups. The entire table has 200 entries.

Trade flow excel

Bloomberg’s Trade Flow Function is certainly easy to use. Its main limitation is the lack of product detail.  For trade between countries with product detail, use the UN COMTRADE Database.

For US trade with product detail, use Country & Product Trade Data (U.S. Census Bureau).

See also our guide to exporting and importing.

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