Current account

Some African economies had current account deficit of up to 40 per cent of GDP in 2016
The surplus of developing economies has stopped shrinking
The surplus of developed economies has grown to 113 billion
LDCs deficit reduced by 15 per cent
Current account balance as a ratio to gross domestic product, 2016 (Percentage)

Geographic distribution of current account imbalances

The receipts that economies obtain from transactions with other economies are often significantly different from their payments made. In 2016, higher receipts than payments, as reflected by a positive current account balance, were recorded for several economies in Europe and Eastern Asia. Most economies in America, Africa, Western Asia and Oceania ran current account deficits. Libya and Mozambique reached deficits as high as 40 and 36 per cent of GDP, respectively.

Recent developments

In 2016, the aggregate current account surplus for developing economies increased slightly to US$169 billion (0.6 per cent of GDP), from US$143 billion, after falling during the three previous years. This slight increase was largely due to a moderate growth in the surplus in the goods account that outweighed increases in the deficit in the services account.

The current account for developed economies had been in deficit for several years but in balance during 2013 and 2014. Since then, a slight surplus has emerged, amounting to US$113 billion (0.3 per cent of GDP) in 2016. The recent growth in the current account surplus has been driven by a considerable reduction in the deficit in the goods account, while the surplus in the services account has decreased at a slower pace.

Figure 1Balances in the current account (Billions of United States dollars)

Note: Current account deficits and surpluses do not add up to zero at the world level, due to imperfect geographic coverage and cross-country differences in compilation methods.

Recovery in least developed countries

The reversal of trend in 2016, as outlined above for the developing economies as a whole, can also be seen in the current accounts of LDCs. After five years of continuous decline, their balance improved in 2016, leading to a reduction in the deficit from US$61 billion to US$52 billion. The trade deficit reduced from US$101 billion to US$98 billion.

Accounting for 5 per cent of GDP, the LDCs’ current account deficit is still high compared to other developing economies. Higher relative deficits were registered for landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) (6 per cent), small-island developing States (SIDS) (8 per cent) and heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) (8 per cent).

Figure 2Balances in least developed countries’ current accounts (Billions of United States dollars)

Summary tables

Table 1

Current account balance by group of economies

Group of economies

Value

Ratio to GDP

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

2011-2016

2015

2016

2011-2016

2015

2016

Worlda

322

264

277

0.4

0.4

0.4

Developing economies

304

143

169

1.1

0.5

0.6

Developing economies: Africa

-83

-162

-129

-3.6

-7.2

-6.0

Developing economies: America

-143

-171

-97

-2.4

-3.2

-1.7

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

531

476

395

2.7

2.2

1.8

Transition economies

43

48

-5

1.6

2.5

-0.3

Developed economies

-26

73

113

-0.1

0.2

0.3

Selected groups

Developing economies excluding China

98

-161

-27

0.5

-0.9

-0.1

Developing economies excluding LDCs

345

204

221

1.3

0.7

0.8

LDCs

-41

-61

-52

-4.5

-6.7

-5.4

LLDCs

-17

-37

-43

-2.4

-5.2

-6.4

SIDS (UNCTAD)

-2

-3

-7

-1.9

-3.3

-8.2

HIPCs (IMF)

-43

-48

-46

-8.2

-9.1

-8.3

BRICS

136

277

177

0.8

1.7

1.0

G20

-88

7

11

-0.2

0.0

0.0

a
Current account deficits and surpluses do not add up to zero at the world level, due to imperfect geographic coverage and cross-country differences in compilation methods.
Find the data on UNCTADstat
Table 2

Current account balance in largest surplus and deficit economies

Economy
(Ranked by 2016 value)

2011-2016

2015

2016

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Ratio to GDP

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

Germany

266

7.4

288

8.6

289

8.4

China

206

2.1

304

2.7

196

1.7

Japan

99

1.9

134

3.1

187

3.8

Korea, Republic of

73

5.4

106

7.7

99

7.1

China, Taiwan Province of

57

11.1

75

14.4

72

13.7

Turkey

-49

-6.3

-32

-4.5

-33

-4.6

Australia

-48

-3.4

-58

-4.7

-33

-2.6

Canada

-54

-3.1

-53

-3.4

-51

-3.3

United Kingdom

-107

-3.9

-123

-4.3

-116

-4.5

United States

-413

-2.4

-435

-2.4

-452

-2.4

Table 3

Current accounts of leading exporters (goods and services) by group of economies, 2016

Developing economies: Africa

Economy
(Ranked by export share)

Current account balance

Trade balancea

Exportsa

Importsa

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Share in world

Share in world

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

South Africa

-9

-3.2

1

0.4

0.4

Nigeria

3

0.6

(e) -9

(e) 0.2

(e) 0.2

Egypt

-20

-7.1

(e) -39

(e) 0.2

(e) 0.4

Morocco

-5

-4.4

-11

0.2

0.2

Algeria

-26

-15.9

(e) -26

(e) 0.2

(e) 0.3

Developing Africa

-129

-6.0

-167

2.2

3.1

a
Goods and services.
e
Estimated data.

Developing economies: America

Economy
(Ranked by export share)

Current account balance

Trade balancea

Exportsa

Importsa

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Share in world

Share in world

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

Mexico

-22

-2.2

-21

1.9

2.1

Brazil

-24

-1.3

(e) 15

(e) 1.1

(e) 1.0

Argentina

-15

-2.7

(e) -3

(e) 0.3

(e) 0.4

Chile

-4

-1.5

(e) 2

(e) 0.3

(e) 0.3

Peru

-5

-2.7

(e) 0

(e) 0.2

(e) 0.2

Developing America

-97

-1.7

-46

5.2

5.5

a
Goods and services.
e
Estimated data.

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

Economy
(Ranked by export share)

Current account balance

Trade balancea

Exportsa

Importsa

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Share in world

Share in world

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

China

196

1.7

250

10.6

9.7

Korea, Republic of

99

7.1

103

2.9

2.5

China, Hong Kong SAR

15

4.6

(e) 6

(e) 2.9

(e) 2.9

Singapore

57

19.1

77

2.5

2.2

India

-12

-0.5

(e) -79

(e) 2.1

(e) 2.5

Developing Asia and Oceania

395

1.8

467

33.4

31.9

a
Goods and services.
e
Estimated data.

Transition economies

Economy
(Ranked by export share)

Current account balance

Trade balancea

Exportsa

Importsa

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Share in world

Share in world

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

Russian Federation

26

2.0

66

1.6

1.3

Ukraine

-4

-4.2

(e) -6

(e) 0.2

(e) 0.3

Kazakhstan

-9

-6.3

(e) 5

(e) 0.2

(e) 0.2

Belarus

-2

-2.1

0

0.1

0.1

Serbia

-2

-3.4

(e) -2

(e) 0.1

(e) 0.1

Transition economies

-5

-0.3

47

2.6

2.5

a
Goods and services.
e
Estimated data.

Developed economies

Economy
(Ranked by export share)

Current account balance

Trade balancea

Exportsa

Importsa

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Share in world

Share in world

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

United States

-452

-2.4

(e) -501

(e) 10.7

(e) 13.4

Germany

289

8.4

(e) 261

(e) 7.7

(e) 6.6

Japan

187

3.8

40

3.9

3.8

France

-23

-0.9

(e) -29

(e) 3.6

(e) 3.8

United Kingdom

-116

-4.5

(e) -52

(e) 3.6

(e) 3.9

Developed economies

113

0.3

169

56.6

57.0

a
Goods and services.
e
Estimated data.
Find the data on UNCTADstat