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Trade flow data: Through the looking glass

In the following piece, we highlight recent research concerning the accuracy of international trade statistics, before discussing the contribution that alternative data sources can make to verifying and supplementing official numbers.

According to the WTO, in 2016, the countries of the world imported $350 billion more goods than they exported. This is a phenomenon that repeats itself year over year as the Earth somehow manages to remain a net importer, despite a conspicuous absence of interstellar trade. (Note: Not my joke, merely borrowed from Jonathon Athow at the ONS.)

At a more granular level, mirror asymmetries are also rife in bilateral trade statistics. Consider, for instance, official US data for the year of 2014:

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