Current account

Current account balance as per cent of gross domestic product, 2019

Current account imbalances across the world

Receipts earned by economies from transactions with other economies often differ significantly from payments made. In 2019, for most economies in America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, payments exceeded receipts, leading to negative current account balances. High surpluses were found mainly in petroleum exporting economies. In Central and Western Europe, Southern and Eastern Asia and Oceania, accounts were generally more balanced.

Kiribati recorded a current account surplus half as high as its GDP in 2019. Macao SAR enjoyed a surplus of 33 per cent and Tuvalu of 27 per cent. High deficits relative to GDP were observed in several small island states, such as Anguilla (41 per cent), Guyana (41 per cent), Dominica (28 per cent), and the Maldives (26 per cent).

In absolute terms, the United States of America (US$480 billion) and the United Kingdom (US$113 billion) ran the world’s largest current account deficits. Germany (US$275 billion) had the largest absolute surplus, followed by Japan (US$185 billion) and China (US$141 billion).

Recent developments

In 2019, the current account surplus of developing economies more than doubled (US$283 billion) compared with 2018 (US$118 billion), although their surplus of trade in goods and services showed only a modest increase (from US$359 million to US$387 million). Geographically, the increase in the current account balance can largely be attributed to a growing surplus in Asian developing economies (from US$313 billion to US$462 billion, including Oceania), combined with a shrinking deficit in developing economies in America (from US$128 billion to US$88 billion). The current account surplus of developed economies stood at US$114 billion in 2019, almost 20 per cent lower than in 2018.

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.

Modest balance improvement in least developed countries

After five years of continuous decline, the current account balance of LDCs shows a slightly increasing trend since 2015, resulting in a reduction of their deficit from US$59 billion to US$40 billion. The trade balance has nevertheless remained almost unchanged since 2016, at slightly below -US$90 billion.

The high relative current account deficit, accounting for 3.6 per cent of GDP in 2019, distinguishes LDCs from other developing economies, which, as a group, ran a surplus of only 0.9 per cent of GDP. Higher deficits relative to GDP were registered for the groups of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) (5.2 per cent) and the LLDCs (3.7 per cent). In small island developing States (SIDS), the deficit was 2.9 per cent of GDP.

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)

2015–2019a

2018

2019

2015–2019a

2018

2019

Developing economies

199

118

283

0.6

0.3

0.8

Developing economies: Africa

-103

-72

-96

-4.5

-3.0

-3.8

Developing economies: America

-114

-128

-88

-2.1

-2.3

-1.6

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

416

318

466

1.7

1.2

1.7

Transition economies

43

104

46

1.9

4.4

1.9

Developed economies

137

141

114

0.3

0.3

0.2

Selected groups

Developing economies excluding China

25

92

141

0.1

0.5

0.7

Developing economies excluding LDCs

247

163

323

0.8

0.5

0.9

LDCs

-48

-46

-40

-4.7

-4.2

-3.6

LLDCs

-34

-26

-34

-4.3

-3.3

-3.7

SIDS (UNCTAD)

-4

-4

-3

-3.8

-4.3

-2.9

HIPCs (IMF)

-42

-40

-37

-6.6

-5.8

-5.2

BRICS

153

21

117

0.9

0.1

0.6

G20

202

116

195

0.3

0.2

0.3

Note: Current account deficits and surpluses do not add up to zero across groups of economies, due to imperfect geographic coverage and cross-country differences in compilation methods.

a
Annual average.
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Table 2

Current account balance in largest surplus and deficit economies

Economy
(Ranked by 2019 value)

2015–2019a

2018

2019

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

288

7.9

293

7.4

275

7.2

Japan

179

3.7

176

3.5

185

3.6

China

174

1.5

25

0.2

141

1.0

Netherlands

78

9.2

99

10.8

90

10.0

Switzerland, Liechtenstein

66

9.5

58

8.1

86

12.1

Canada

-45

-2.8

-43

-2.5

-35

-2.0

Ireland

-4

-1.0

23

6.0

-45

-11.7

Brazil

-37

-2.0

-42

-2.2

-49

-2.7

United Kingdom

-120

-4.3

-110

-3.9

-113

-4.0

United States of America

-419

-2.1

-450

-2.2

-480

-2.2

Table 3

Current accounts of leading exporters (goods and services) by group of economies, 2019

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

-11

-3.0

2

0.4

0.4

Nigeria

-17

-3.6

(e) -31

(e) 0.3

(e) 0.4

Egypt

-10

-3.2

(e) -25

(e) 0.2

(e) 0.3

Morocco

-5

-4.2

-11

0.2

0.2

Algeria

-16

-9.3

-

-

-

Developing Africa

-96

-3.8

-126

2.4

3.0

a
Goods and services.

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

-4

-0.3

(e) -1

(e) 2.0

(e) 2.0

Brazil

-49

-2.7

6

1.1

1.1

Chile

-11

-3.9

(e) 0

(e) 0.3

(e) 0.3

Argentina

-4

-0.9

13

0.3

0.3

Peru

(e) -3

(e) -1.4

(e) 4

(e) 0.2

(e) 0.2

Developing America

-88

-1.6

-11

5.1

5.3

a
Goods and services.

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

141

1.0

208

10.8

10.3

Korea, Republic of

60

3.6

(e) 53

(e) 2.7

(e) 2.5

China, Hong Kong SAR

22

6.1

6

2.6

2.7

Singapore

63

17.5

104

2.6

2.2

India

-30

-1.0

(e) -119

2.2

(e) 2.8

Developing Asia and Oceania

466

1.7

524

33.6

32.3

a
Goods and services.

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

65

3.8

(e) 128

(e) 1.9

(e) 1.5

Kazakhstan

-6

-3.7

16

0.3

0.2

Ukraine

-4

-2.7

-12

0.3

0.3

Belarus

-1

-1.9

0

0.2

0.2

Serbia

-4

-6.0

-4

0.1

0.1

Transition economies

46

1.9

106

3.2

2.8

a
Goods and services.

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

-480

-2.2

-577

10.2

12.9

Germany

275

7.2

(e) 224

(e) 7.3

(e) 6.6

Japan

185

3.6

(e) 5

(e) 3.6

(e) 3.7

United Kingdom

-113

-4.0

-33

3.6

3.8

France

-18

-0.7

(e) -27

(e) 3.6

(e) 3.8

Developed economies

114

0.2

97

55.7

56.7

a
Goods and services.
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