Imports and exports are the terms used to describe the goods and services traded between nations. Imports Countries import goods that they cannot produce domestically, or that companies can supply to these countries at a higher quality or lower cost. The term can also apply to services rendered to residents of one country from non-residents. Even tourists fall under a loose definition of providing an imported service through the investment they make in hotels, restaurants and attractions. Import statistics can be difficult to track, because of varying definitions and inaccurate coverage. Most of the data collected comes from declarations to custom services. However, these would not account for goods imported to one member nation from another in the European Union (EU), since such products may be moved without customs controls. According to the World Trade Organization, the United States is the world’s largest importer (based on capital investment), followed by the EU, China, Germany and Japan. Exports Exports, simply put, are goods or services produced locally and sold abroad. This may be done as a way to boost the producing nation's gross output, or in exchange for more desired products or services. China has been the world's largest exporter of goods since 2009. Official estimates suggest Chinese exports amounted to $1.904 trillion in 2013. This represents a significant reversal of policies in place for much of that nation’s history, when a more protectionist stance was taken in trading policies. The EU ranks second in exports, followed by the United States, Germany and Japan.
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