Methodology and quality External sector


The methodology and systematic structure applied to external statistics are outlined in numerous international handbooks.

The revised standards of the International Monetary Fund constitute the main reference work for the balance of payments and the international investment position:

  • International Monetary Fund  (2009), Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, Sixth Edition (BPM6)

Further handbooks on subsections of external statistics are:

  • International Monetary Fund (2013), External debt statistics: guide for compilers and users, Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics, Washington D.C.
  • Eurostat (2012), Foreign AffiliaTes Statistics (FATS) Recommendations Manual
  • International Monetary Fund (2013), International reserves and foreign currency liquidity, guidelines for a data template
  • OECD (2008), OECD Benchmark Definition of Foreign Direct Investment, Fourth Edition (BMD4) 
  • United Nations et al. (2010), Manual on Statistics of International Trade in Services

A description of the concepts and methods is provided on the corresponding statistics pages.


The Bundesbank’s external sector statistics are subject not only to internal quality assurance measures but also strict external quality assurance by the European Central Bank (ECB) and Eurostat. One reason for this is because they provide a key contribution to Germany’s gross national income, on the basis of which most of Germany’s contribution payments to the European Union are determined. In addition, they constitute an important part of the external sector statistics of the euro area and the EU. Last but not least, they provide data for external indicators in the context of a macroeconomic imbalance procedure (MIP).

The main external indicators include the ratio of the current account balance to gross domestic product (GDP) on an average of the last three years and the ratio of net external assets to GDP. Auxiliary indicators include the external balance of net lending-borrowing as well as foreign direct investment (FDI) flows and stocks, each as a percentage of GDP. A three-tiered quality assurance approach ensures the reliability and international comparability of the EU countries’ data. Reporting is conducted in accordance with the criteria contained in the Public Commitment by the ESCB and the Eurostat Code of Practice:

  • Institutional Environment
  • Statistical Processes
  • Statistical Output

The stage 3 quality reports are created by the national statistics producers in the relevant statistical field. For external statistics, the Bundesbank assesses the quality of balance of payments statistics and the international investment position (i.i.p.), identifies areas where action is necessary and outlines national specificities in its report.

The annual stage 2 quality reports are also focused on the individual statistical field. For the purposes of collating external statistics, the ECB and Eurostat assess the application of internationally prescribed methodologies in individual countries, the compilation practices and the comparability of statistics between members.

In their annual level 1 quality report, Eurostat and the ECB assess, in summary form for all EU Member States, the quality of the statistics provided by the Member States which underlie all MIP indicators.