Subject Research Guides

International Trade Research Guide

When to Use This Guide

Use this guide when you are looking for international trade statistics, narrative overviews, and information on topics such as foreign direct investment, multilateral agreements, or trade regulations. This guide focuses on the economic side of trade; for hands-on information about exporting, use our Exporter's Research Guide.

Finding General or Background Information on International Trade

Use resources such as those listed below for beginning your research on international trade.

OECD Factbook - [electronic resource]
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Factbook, updated yearly, is a comprehensive statistical annual on worldwide economies. It contains more than 100 indicators (including descriptive information, statistical tables, and graphics) from areas like economy, education, energy, environment, foreign aid, health and quality of life, industry, information and communications, population/labor force, trade and investment, taxation, public expenditure, and R&D.

Statistical Yearbook: Forty-eighth Issue - R HA 12.5.U63
Based on data compiled by the United Nations Statistical Division from over 40 different international and national sources. The present issue contains series covering 1992-2001 or 1993-2003.

CIA – The World Factbook - [electronic resource]
The information in the Factbook is arranged by country but also categorized by topic. For any of the listed countries there is data on factors like GDP, household income, investment, industries, and debt.

Encyclopedia of World Trade: From Ancient Times to the Present - R HF1373 .W67 2005 vol. 1-4

Encyclopaedia Britannica - online resource
In this World Data section, compare countries (scroll in the “Options” menu to “Foreign Trade”) or see at-a-glance lists of highest or lowest ranking countries in foreign trade.

Subject Headings for Finding Information on International Trade in the Book and Media Catalog

Finding Information About International Trade in Research Databases

Business Source Complete
Search Business Source Complete for business articles published in scholarly, trade, and general interest periodicals.

Country Reviews include investment overviews, as well as economic information for 192 countries.

Passport GMID (Global Market Information Database) (GMID)
Passport GMID has historical and forecast data on countries and industries. You can build a search on foreign trade or economic indicators by country.

WAND Precision Classification and Search (formerly NTDB Global Trade Directory)
Worldwide directory of companies that sell consumer products or component parts internationally. Searchable by geographic region, company name, product or service category, and specific product or service (cinnamon oil, mechanical pencil parts, medical transcription services, etc.).

Selected Web Sites

Trade Statistics, Analysis, FDI Data

Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
One-stop access to timely, relevant, and accurate economic accounts data at the national, regional, and international (balance of payments, FDI, international trade) level.

International Trade Statistics by SITC level
International Trade Statistics by NAICS level
On this U.S. Census Bureau site, find the value of exports and imports by country, at the 1-, 2-, and 3-digit SITC level (see Tariffs and Schedules section below) or by 3- and 6-digit NAICS code (see Guide to NAICS).

USITC Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb
Free registration will give you access to imports/exports statistics and U.S. tariff data compiled by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC). The database allows users to create and save customized country and product lists for future reuse.

World Economic Outlook Reports (WEO)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) provides analysis and statistics illustrating the performance and prospects for global economy (10-year series). Data are categorized into “advanced economies” and “other emerging and developing countries.”

World Trade Organization (WTO)
The WTO is an international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. Follow the “Resources” to browse "Trade Statistics," or the “Economic Research” to locate World Trade Report, an annual WTO research publication on global trade policy.

COMTRADE from United Nations Statistics Division
Commodity Trade Statistics Database (COMTRADE) offers limited free guest access to trade information by country and product at the level of 4-digit SITC number (see Tariffs and Schedules section below). Use “Shortcut query” to quickly retrieve data, or explore the menu for access to the commodity list and to the glossary.

UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics On-line
The Handbook of Statistics, published by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), is a comprehensive collection of statistical data going back to the 1950s, about international trade, finance, and development indicators.

Foreign Trade Information System
SICE for short from its Spanish acronym -- Sistema de Información al Comercio Exterior -- is the information technology arm of the Trade Unit of the Organization of American States (OAS). It aims to "provide the most complete information and documents on trade in the Western Hemisphere."

Data and reports on external trade from the Statistical Office of the European Communities.

Tariffs and Schedules

Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSA)
HTSA provides the applicable tariff rates and statistical categories for all merchandise imported into the United States. HTSA is based on the International Harmonized System, the global system of nomenclature used to describe most world trade in goods.

Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)
Standard International Trade Classification is a classification scheme agreed upon by all UN member nations and used for international comparisons of trade. You will most likely encounter it when searching COMTRADE .

Trade DataWeb from United States International Trade Commission (USITC)
International trade data since 1989 is available on a monthly, quarterly, annual, and year-to-date basis, and can be retrieved within various classification systems including the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTSA), the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC), and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). U.S. import statistics, U.S. export statistics, U.S. tariffs, U.S. future tariffs, and U.S. tariff preference information are searchable. Free registration is required.

Page Last Updated: January 25 2016

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Research Tips

These Research Guides have been prepared by librarians to assist with your research. Read more:

Evaluating Web Resources

Critically Analyzing Information Sources

Searching Electronic Resources Effectively

For more information on citation style, see:

Citing Your Research

Related Guides

Exporter's Research Guide

Country Research Guide

Industry Research Guide

Company Research Guide