An overview of the service sector as it relates to U.S. exports. This information is taken from "A Basic Guide to Exporting" provided by the U.S. Commercial Service to assist U.S. companies in exporting.
Last Published: 10/20/2016

The United States is the world’s premier producer and exporter of services. As the largest component of the U.S. economy, the service sector includes all private-sector economic activity other than agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing. The service sector accounts for 90 million jobs, which is nearly 80 percent of the private-sector gross domestic product (GDP).

In the future, the service sector will loom even larger in the U.S. economy. Small and mediumsized entrepreneurial companies—those employing fewer than 500 employees—overwhelmingly lead this service-driven business expansion. More than 4 million small U.S. service companies account for more than 16 million jobs. Although small service companies make up most of the service sector, many of the most prominent U.S. service exporters are large companies. Seven  of the 30 companies that constitute the widely cited Dow Jones Industrial Average are  service companies.

The dominant role that services play throughout the U.S. economy translates into leadership in technology advancement, as well as growth in skilled jobs and global competitiveness. U.S. service exports more than doubled between 1990 and 2000—increasing from $148 billion in 1990 to $299 billion in 2000. Growth continued to $404 billion in 2006, $632 billion in 2012, and $682 billion in 2013. Major markets for U.S. services include the European Union, Japan, and Canada. Mexico is the largest emerging market for U.S. service exports.

Service Exports with High Growth Potential


Travel and Tourism

The largest single category within the U.S. service sector encompasses all travel- and tourism-related businesses, including recreational and cultural services. The industry is diverse and 100 U.S. Commercial Service encompasses services in transportation, lodging, food and beverage, recreation, and purchase of incidentals consumed while in transit. Export sales for this sector in 2013 were $140 billion. Recently, there has been an increase in visitors from China.

Environmental Services

The environmental technologies industry incorporates all goods and services that generate revenue associated with environmental protection, assessment,compliance with environmental regulations, pollution control,waste management, remediation of contaminated property, design and operation of environmental infrastructure, and provision and delivery of environmental resources.The industry has evolved in response to growing concern about the risks and costs of pollution and about the enactment of pollution control legislation in the United States and around the world. The United States is the largest producer and consumer of environmental technologies in the world.

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Transportation Services

This sector encompasses aviation, ocean shipping, inland waterways, railroads,trucking, pipelines, and intermodal services, as well as ancillary and support services in ports, airports, rail yards, and truck terminals. Transportation is the indispensable service for international trade in goods, moving all manufactured, mining, and agricultural products to market as well as transporting people engaged in business,travel, and tourism. Well aware that if you are welcoming Asian tourists to your service business, you are generating export sales, the U.S. Commercial Service has a global team dedicated to generating more visits from international travelers.Representatives of this branch of the Department of Commerce will be glad to help you promote your services and make overseas customers even more welcome.

Banking, Financial, and Insurance Services

U.S. financial institutions are very competitive internationally, particularly when they offer account management, credit card operations, and collection management. U.S.insurers offer valuable services, ranging from underwriting and risk evaluation to insurance operations and management contracts in the international marketplace.

Telecommunications and Information Services

This sector includes companies that generate, process, and export such
electronic commerce activities as e-mail, funds transfer, and data interchange,as well as data processing, network services, electronic information services,and professional computer services. The United States leads the world in marketing new technologies and enjoys a competitive advantage in computer operations, data processing and transmission, online services, computer consulting, and systems integration.

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Education and Training Services

Management training, technical training, and English language training are areas in which U.S. expertise remains unchallenged. The export market for such training is almost limitless, encompassing most industry sectors for products and services.

Commercial, Professional, and Technical Services .

This sector comprises accounting, advertising, and legal and management consulting services. The international market for those services is expanding at a more rapid rate than the U.S. domestic market. Organizations and business enterprises all over the world look to U.S. companies, as leaders in these sectors, for advice and assistance.
Exporting Services provides unique challenges,because he export is often invisible or intangible.Most likely,this will mean :
  • More travel. Without a tangible product, you may have to make special efforts to elevate the profile of your company and the credibility of your statements about its services.
  • Awareness of labor requirements. You may be in-country for an extended period of time, or you may need to hire local workers. Be aware of your legal obligations, such as securing work permits.
  • More intensive market research. Market research methodologies and business opportunity indicators are unique for service companies, often requiring more in-depth and detailed activities, information, and intelligence than are routine for exporting goods.


U.S.–filmed entertainment and U.S.–recorded music have been very successful in appealing to audiences worldwide. U.S. film companies license and sell rights to exhibit films in movie theaters, on television, on video cassettes, and on DVDs and CDs. U.S. music has been successful in both English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries.

Architectural, Construction, and Engineering Services

The vast experience and technological leadership of the U.S. construction industry, as well as special skills in operations, maintenance, and management, frequently give U.S. companies a competitive edge in international projects. U.S. companies with expertise in specialized fields, such as electric-power utilities, construction, bioremediation, and engineering services, are similarly competitive.


This sector, which can be service or product oriented, is expected to grow dramatically. It is estimated that there are already 600 million Internet users worldwide—but that figure represents only a small chunk of the world’s population.China’s B2C e-commerce platforms have become a popular means for Chinese consumers to purchase U.S. brands.

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