Current account

In 3 African economies, the current account deficit reached 23 per cent of GDP in 2017
The world’s largest deficit was run by the United States of America: US$449 billion
Developed economies’ growing surplus stood at US$193 billion in 2017
LDCs’ deficit remained unchanged at around US$50 billion
Current account balance as a ratio to gross domestic product, 2017 (Percentage)
Economies

    Geographic distribution of current account imbalances

    The receipts that economies earn from transactions with other economies are often significantly different from the payments made. In 2017, most economies in America, Southern and South-eastern Asia and Oceania recorded higher payments than receipts, leading to negative current account balances. Positive balances were most often found in Eastern Asia and Europe, as well as in major petroleum exporting economies.

    In the three economies most constrained by current account imbalances, relative to their annual output, their respective deficits all stood at 23 per cent of GDP. These economies were: Djibouti, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. By far, the highest deficits in absolute terms were recorded for the United States of America (US$449 billion) and the United Kingdom (US$107 billion). The largest surpluses were run by Germany (US$297 billion), Japan (US$196 billion) and China (US$165 billion).

    Recent developments

    In 2017, the current account surplus of developing economies continued to increase, reaching US$235 billion. This was driven, at least partly, by a rising surplus in the goods account. Looking at the breakdown by region, this increase was largely due to decreasing deficits of African and American developing economies, which was only partially offset by a significant reduction in the surplus for China.

    The current account surplus in developed economies, which emerged in 2014, reached US$193 billion in 2017. Over the past year, this increase was mainly caused by changes in primary and secondary income accounts, and to a certain extent also by a slight increase in the balance of trade in goods and services.

    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.

    The least developed countries' persistent deficit

    After five years of continuous decline, from 2011 to 2015, the current account balance of LDCs improved in 2016, and remained almost constant in 2017, recording a deficit of US$52 billion. The LDCs' trade balance – covering both goods and services trade – followed a similar trend, with the deficit decreasing from US$103 billion in 2015 to US$90 billion in 2016 and 2017.

    The high relative current account deficit, accounting for 4.9 per cent of GDP in 2017, distinguishes LDCs from other developing economies, which, as a group, ran a surplus of 0.9 per cent of GDP for the same year. Similar relative deficits were registered for LLDCs (4.5 per cent) and the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) (6.3 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)

    2013-2017b

    2016

    2017

    2013-2017b

    2016

    2017

    Worlda

    353

    284

    444

    0.5

    0.4

    0.6

    Developing economies

    263

    192

    235

    0.9

    0.7

    0.7

    Developing economies: Africa

    -107

    -121

    -79

    -4.7

    -5.6

    -3.5

    Developing economies: America

    -138

    -93

    -80

    -2.4

    -1.8

    -1.3

    Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

    508

    405

    394

    2.4

    1.8

    1.7

    Transition economies

    25

    -3

    17

    1.1

    -0.2

    0.8

    Developed economies

    65

    95

    193

    0.1

    0.2

    0.4

    Selected groups

    Developing economies excluding China

    52

    -11

    70

    0.3

    -0.1

    0.4

    Developing economies excluding LDCs

    315

    242

    287

    1.1

    0.9

    0.9

    LDCs

    -51

    -50

    -53

    -5.4

    -5.3

    -4.9

    LLDCs

    -28

    -44

    -32

    -3.9

    -6.6

    -4.5

    SIDS (UNCTAD)

    -2

    -5

    -4

    -1.9

    -5.8

    -3.7

    HIPCs (IMF)

    -46

    -47

    -38

    -8.2

    -8.4

    -6.3

    BRICS

    157

    183

    144

    0.9

    1.1

    0.8

    G20

    120

    178

    219

    0.2

    0.3

    0.3

    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.
    b
    Annual average.
    Find the data on UNCTADstat
    Table 2

    Current account balance in largest surplus and deficit economies

    Economy
    (Ranked by 2017 value)

    2013-2017a

    2016

    2017

    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

    287

    7.9

    297

    8.5

    297

    8.1

    Japan

    122

    2.5

    194

    3.9

    196

    4.0

    China

    211

    1.9

    202

    1.8

    165

    1.4

    Netherlands

    72

    8.7

    63

    8.1

    87

    10.6

    China, Taiwan Province of

    69

    12.8

    73

    13.7

    83

    14.3

    India

    -30

    -1.4

    -12

    -0.5

    -38

    -1.5

    Turkey

    -44

    -4.9

    -33

    -3.8

    -47

    -5.6

    Canada

    -51

    -3.1

    -49

    -3.2

    -49

    -3.0

    United Kingdom

    -145

    -5.2

    -155

    -5.8

    -107

    -4.1

    United States of America

    -401

    -2.2

    -433

    -2.3

    -449

    -2.3

    Table 3

    Current accounts of leading exporters by group of economies, 2017

    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

    -2.5

    5

    0.5

    0.4

    Nigeria

    10

    2.8

    0

    0.2

    0.2

    Egypt

    -9

    -4.7

    (e) -27

    (e) 0.2

    (e) 0.3

    Morocco

    -4

    -3.5

    -11

    0.2

    0.2

    Algeria

    -22

    -12.4

    (e) -20

    (e) 0.2

    (e) 0.3

    Developing Africa

    -79

    -3.5

    -117

    2.3

    2.9

    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

    -19

    -1.7

    -21

    1.9

    2.1

    Brazil

    -10

    -0.5

    30

    1.1

    1.0

    Chile

    -4

    -1.5

    (e) 5

    (e) 0.3

    (e) 0.3

    Argentina

    -31

    -5.0

    -15

    0.3

    0.4

    Peru

    -3

    -1.3

    (e) 5

    (e) 0.2

    (e) 0.2

    Developing America

    -80

    -1.3

    -22

    5.2

    5.4

    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

    165

    1.4

    237

    10.7

    10.0

    Korea, Republic of

    78

    5.1

    85

    2.9

    2.6

    China, Hong Kong SAR

    15

    4.3

    (e) 5

    (e) 2.8

    (e) 2.9

    Singapore

    61

    19.6

    79

    2.5

    2.2

    India

    -38

    -1.5

    (e) -118

    2.1

    (e) 2.7

    Developing Asia and Oceania

    394

    1.7

    473

    33.7

    32.4

    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

    35

    2.3

    (e) 84

    (e) 1.8

    (e) 1.5

    Kazakhstan

    -5

    -3.3

    13

    0.2

    0.2

    Ukraine

    -2

    -2.2

    -9

    0.2

    0.3

    Belarus

    -1

    -1.6

    0

    0.2

    0.2

    Serbia

    -2

    -4.8

    (e) -3

    (e) 0.1

    (e) 0.1

    Transition economies

    17

    0.8

    75

    2.9

    2.7

    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 of America

    -449

    -2.3

    (e) -568

    (e) 10.2

    (e) 13.1

    Germany

    297

    8.1

    (e) 280

    (e) 7.6

    (e) 6.6

    Japan

    196

    4.0

    (e) 38

    (e) 3.8

    (e) 3.8

    France

    -15

    -0.6

    (e) -43

    (e) 3.5

    (e) 3.8

    United Kingdom

    -107

    -4.1

    (e) -39

    (e) 3.5

    (e) 3.7

    Developed economies

    193

    0.4

    167

    55.9

    56.6

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