Trade and Economic Data:

Many Federal Agencies Collect and Disseminate Information

NSIAD-91-173: Published: May 1, 1991. Publicly Released: May 31, 1991.

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Allan I. Mendelowitz
(202) 512-4812


Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on foreign economic data available to U.S. businesses and policymakers, focusing on the: (1) federal agencies that collect and disseminate foreign economic and trade data; (2) ways in which executive and legislative agencies use this information; (3) extent of agency coordination in collecting and disseminating these data; and (4) methods government agencies use to disseminate data to private-sector users.

GAO found that: (1) the seven agencies collecting, maintaining, and disseminating the majority of foreign economic and trade data were the Departments of Commerce, State, Labor, Energy, and Agriculture, the Federal Reserve System, and the U.S. International Trade Commission; (2) agencies disseminated the data they collected through their own printing and distribution offices, the Government Printing Office, and the National Technical Information Service; (3) Commerce made an effort to establish a centralized dissemination point by creating the National Trade Data Bank (NTDB) in August 1990; and (4) NTDB was to be a one-stop source of information on foreign economies and trade as intended by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, but the omission of additional federal databases has reduced its potential usefulness.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Commerce's Office of Business Analysis has begun reviewing databases identified by GAO for possible inclusion in NTDB. Because the review is an ongoing process, there is no need to carry over this recommendation.

    Recommendation: Consistent with his responsibility for managing NTDB, the Secretary of Commerce should direct NTDB officials to add databases from those GAO identified to be of greatest interest to NTDB users.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce


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