International trade in services

Introduction

Service exports make up about a quarter of UK international trade. UK businesses are major exporters in sectors such as financial services and consulting. UK businesses also buy services from overseas - such as outsourcing customer services to overseas suppliers.

Telecommunications and IT make it quick and cost-effective to trade services internationally.

Whether you are importing or exporting services, many of the same basic rules apply as for trade in goods. But there are key differences, from how services are marketed to the taxes and regulations that apply.

UK-based services exporters may also benefit from the commitments of UK trading partners under the World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

As of December 2009, the European Union (EU) Services Directive removed many barriers to service businesses established in a member state to easily provide services throughout the EU.

This guide highlights the special features of trading in services and how to approach exporting or importing them.