Frequently Asked Questions
This section provides brief answers to frequently asked questions. If you have further questions or comments, please contact
  • What is FDI?
    FDI is described in detail in the Foreign Direct Investment page.

  • What is a TNC?
    TNCs are described in detail in the Foreign Direct Investment page.

  • How does UNCTAD collect data? How often are data updated?
    UNCTAD collects data through national compilers (such as central banks, various ministries, statistical offices, etc). Data sources for FDI and TNCs include balance of payments statistics, business registers and enterprise surveys. These are complemented by corporate reports and information from the press.
    In the absence of primary sources, UNCTAD uses data from regional, international organizations or research institutions. Data are updated on an on-going basis, depending on data availability and resources.

  • How can we get data from UNCTAD?
    Most frequently used or published data are available free of charge on this website.
    Further to the online data collection, more detailed information from the UNCTAD databases are available, on request, through the data extract service (contact:

  • What is the analytical value of the data on FDI and TNCs that UNCTAD collects?
    The time-series data on FDI and the activities of TNCs provide valuable information on developments in cross-border capital flows as well as distribution of international production. Data are presented and analyzed by UNCTAD in its annual World Investment Report to observe the latest trends in globalization of economic activities. UNCTAD disseminates the data in various statistical publications, such as the World Investment Directory and uses the data in a range of analytical reports and other activities.
    Such data are also of importance in the context of trade negotiations such as in the framework of the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Users of UNCTAD statistics include, in particular, policy makers and trade negotiators, academia as well as the business community.

  • As a national compiler, how can we improve our FDI statistics?
    In order to improve data collection and compilation, and to increase comparability of time-series data across countries, recommendations made international organizations (such as the IMFs Balance of Payments Manual, 5th ed. or the OECD´s Benchmark Definition on FDI, UN et al, Manual on Statistics of International Trade in Services, etc) provide guidelines for definitions and methodologies of FDI statistics.
    Implementation of the aforementioned guidelines and recommendations will greatly enhance comparability and analytical value of statistics on FDI and operations of TNCs. In an effort to harmonize FDI data collection systems, UNCTAD provides technical assistance, on demand, to countries that need training in implementation of these guidelines.

  • Why don´t data on global FDI inflows and outflows match with each other?
    UNCTAD compiles FDI statistics based on national international sources. There is an apparent lack of comparability of FDI data reported by different countries. The methodology for compiling these data varies between countries. For a given transaction, host country and home country often do not register it in exactly the same way.

    For example, country A may include re-invested earnings in its outflow statistics while country B receiving this FDI may not include the earnings in its inflow statistics. Furthermore, corporate accounting practices and valuation methods differ between countries. These two factors lead to discrepancies in FDI data.


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