CPA Trade Database

Global Imbalances: Current Account Balances as Share of GDP

Economic theory tells us that national economies are supposed to trend over time towards balance, i.e.current account balances at or near zero. The graphs below show persistent imbalances for many nations, not just over years but decades, arguing that the current international monetary and trade systems are not fulfilling their objectives and need substantial modification.


China, Japan, Germany and other countries have economic strategies to run persistent current account surpluses. The US is the primary country absorbing those surpluses, resulting in a trade deficit, lower growth and degradation of the quality of employment.

  • United States: The US has been in persistent deficit on its current account for 27 years. 
  • China: China has run a large, persistent current account surplus since its economic reforms in the 1990s aimed at accelerating growth and exports. 
  • Germany: Germany runs the largest current account surplus of any major national economy, a reflection of the imbalance inherent in the euro, a single currency for 19 nations with very divergent economies.
  • United Kingdom: The UK has been in persistent deficit since 1986, 33 consecutive years.
  • Japan: Japan runs a persistent current account surplus. Japan is credited with pioneering the so-called “Asian Tiger” strategy of running export surpluses as a means towards rapid economic growth.
  • Korea: South Korea has run a current account surplus for 21 consecutive years.


Source: International Monetary Fund