FIW Research Reports | 2008-06

Trade Barriers in Services and Competitive Strengths in the Austrian Service Sector – An Analysis at the Detailed Sector Level

This study provides a thourough and detailed analysis of the competitiveness of the Austrian service sectors. It combines several industry classifications reflecting different structural features and international regulatory regimes that might be relevant for a sector?s export potential and international competitiveness. These features are the skill and factor intensity, the intrinsic tradability and different regulatory regimes in international trade. For the first time this study applies a newly developed taxonomy of services which represents the different degrees of openness to services trade as reflected by the willingness of countries to submit full or partial commitments under the GATS. The analysis found a clear dominance of activities characterized by unfavourable sector characteristics in terms of skills and factor inputs. Furthermore, the structural change towards high-skilled labour intensive and knowledge intensive service sectors was found to be rather slow. At the detailed sector level, the analysis highlighted "consultancy, legal, accounting, book-keeping and market research services", the "renting of machinery and equipment sector", as well as "engineering, architectural activities and technical testing and analysis" as the most promising fields of activity in the group of high-skilled sectors already facing a relatively liberal international trade regime. The results were less favourable for the group of computer services. Within the group of sectors facing medium regulated trade regimes the R&D sector exhibited a very dynamic development paired with a good, but deteriorating competitive position. Insurance services were found to hold a weak and strongly deteriorating competitive advantage in terms of relative unit labour costs. At the same time the productivity gap to some of the European countries was found to be extremely wide. The growth performance of financial services which face the most regulated internationel trade regime was weak as was the competitive position.