Research Finds Digital Trade Is a Growing Industry Without Clear Definition Or Metrics

Ottawa, November 17, 2021 – Despite the growth of digital trade in Canada and globally, there are challenges in accurately measuring the size, impact or even a clear definition of what digital trade is, shows a report released today by The Conference Board of Canada.

“While an increasingly prevalent and important part of our daily lives, accurately measuring digital trade is difficult in part due to being relatively new and rapidly expanding,” said Swapna Nair, Senior Economist, Global Commerce Centre Lead at The Conference Board of Canada. “The pandemic was a significant factor in increasing the volume of digital trade, with many of these types of purchases expected to be lasting as consumers favor the convenience of online transactions.”

Key findings of the research include:

  • Although there is no universally accepted definition of digital trade, there is growing consensus internationally on a proposed framework from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), WTO, and IMF which is: “all trade that is digitally ordered and/or digitally delivered.”
  • Digital technologies are changing the way trade moves across borders, and is increasingly becoming part of trade agreements, including the agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico (CUSMA), and in the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement (TCA).
  • Official statistics struggle to reflect the true size and scale of digital trade, meaning governments and businesses don’t have accurate metrics to make their respective policy or business decisions.
  • Canada has made significant progress in the measurement of digital trade, but it’s clear that more work needs to be done. Exploring conventional data sources such as surveys and existing data on services, along with the experimental statistics on services trade, are steps in the right direction. Evidence points to a lot of effort and international collaboration in this area, with an eye on improving these statistical measures.
  • As an earlier adopter of the OECD framework, Canada is in a good position to influence its continued development to benefit its economy and competitiveness, as well as the economies of our trading partners.
  • It’s imperative that Canada continues to examine digital trade, its impact in the country, and overall development, to remain a global leader.

The full report is available at the link here.

About the Conference Board of Canada:

The Conference Board of Canada is the country’s leading independent research organization. Our mission is to empower and inspire leaders to build a stronger future for all Canadians through our trusted research and unparalleled connections. Follow The Conference Board of Canada on Twitter @ConfBoardofCda.

Media Contact:

The Conference Board of Canada
media@conferenceboard.ca / 613-526-3090 ext. 224

Media Contacts

For all requests, including reports and interviews, please contact: 

Deb Young
media@conferenceboard.ca

Taylor Gadde
media@conferenceboard.ca

Toll-Free
1-866-242-0075
(From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET; after hours, please send an e-mail.)







Access our research

Access to the Conference Board’s reports is free of charge to professional journalists upon request.

Access our experts

Our experts are available to share research insights. Contact us.