International Data and Statistics

Jeannie Bail


Whether you are looking at doing business in a foreign country, comparing the economic health of several markets against each other or evaluating international investment prospects, it’s critical to utilize economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to analyze and assess current and future prospects. These indicators, which provide valuable information on the health of a country, can guide decision-making and influence business dealings.

For example, when there is an increase in GDP, it means that the economy is growing. When it declines, the economy is contracting and conditions might not be as favorable for growth. A basic knowledge and understanding of some of the most-common and frequently-used statistics will help assist you in performing thorough due diligence.

This section will cover key governmental and intergovernmental organization (IGO) sources that provide data on a number of important economic indicators such as GDP, inflation, consumer spending, population, unemployment, etc.. Normally, each country has its own official source of official statistics. For Canada, this source is Statistics Canada. For the United States, it’s the Census Bureau. The focus of this section will be on the statistical sources maintained by IGOs such as Eurostat, the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as they contain data for the global economic community.

For an in-depth look at these indicators, the Economist publishes a Guide to Economic Indicators: Making Sense of Economics, which is available via UNB Libraries as an eBook.

Image credit: International Website by Vectors Point from

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is an important indicator when it comes to investing in, or acquiring, international companies for control and management purposes. Direct investment in a country occurs when a company chooses to set up facilities to produce or market their products; or, alternatively, seeks to partner with, invest in, or purchase a local company for control and access to the local market, production, or resources. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), FDI supports cross-border trade, technology development and is an important vehicle and indicator of economic development.

Some examples of FDI are:

  • purchasing the assets of a foreign company
  • investing in a foreign company or in new property, plants, or equipment
  • participating in a joint venture with a foreign company

FDI is primarily a long-term strategy. Companies usually expect to benefit through access to local markets and resources, often in exchange for expertise, technical know-how, and capital. A country’s FDI can be both inward and outward. Inward FDI refers to investments coming into the country and outward FDI are investments made by companies from that country into foreign companies in other countries. The difference between inward and outward is called the net FDI inflow, which can be either positive or negative.

Factors That Influence a Company’s Decision to Invest: 

  • Cost. Is it cheaper to produce in the local market than elsewhere?
  • Logistics. Is it cheaper to produce locally if the transportation costs are significant?
  • Market. Has the company identified a significant local market?
  • Natural resources. Is the company interested in obtaining access to local resources or commodities?
  • Know-how. Does the company want access to local technology or business process knowledge?
  • Customers and competitors. Does the company’s clients or competitors operate in the country?
  • Policy. Are there local incentives (cash and noncash) for investing in one country versus another?
  • Ease. Is it relatively straightforward to invest and/or set up operations in the country, or is there another country in which setup might be easier?
  • Culture. Is the workforce or labor pool already skilled for the company’s needs or will extensive training be required
  • Impact. How will this investment impact the company’s revenue and profitability?
  • Expatriation of funds. Can the company easily take profits out of the country, or are there local restrictions?
  • Exit. Can the company easily and orderly exit from a local investment, or are local laws and regulations cumbersome and expensive?

There are two forms of FDI: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal FDI occurs when a company is trying to open up a new market—a retailer, for example, that builds a store in a new country to sell to the local market. Vertical FDI is when a company invests internationally to provide input into its core operations—usually in its home country.

Often, governments play a role in encouraging or discouraging FDI through a number of tactics, including:

  • Encourage
    • Financial incentive
    • Infrastructure
    • An efficient regulatory system
    • Investment in education
    • Stable political and economic environment
  • Discourage
    • Ownership restrictions to limit control of the local market. In Canada, a good example of this is protectionism in the dairy sector.
    • Tax rates and sanctions

For more on FDI, see the Government of Canada’s Global Affairs FAQ on FDI.

Note: this section is adapted from the Open Educational Resource (OER) Core Principles of International Marketing, Chapter 2: International Business and Trade > 2.7 Foreign Direct Investment by Babu John Mariadoss.

Core Principles of International Marketing was developed to be used in International Marketing courses, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Data & Statistics Resources


  • Statistics Canada: The national statistical office for Canada with key information on the economy, society and environment.
  • Bank of Canada: Canada’s central bank, which contains data on banking and financial statistics. Also provides access to data on price indexes, market indicators, exchange and interest rates.

United States


  • The World Bank > DataBank: Multilingual resource to download and analyze time series data from over 50 World Bank indicator databases. Contains tools to visualize data via tables, graphs and maps, which can be embedded as widgets within websites.
  • Eurostat: Statistical office of the European Union.Browse statistics by theme, A-Z, etc. Visualization tools include indicator dashboards and interactive publications.
  • United Nations > UNdata: Contains numerous databases or tables collectively known as “datamarts” with millions of data points that cover a wide range of statistical themes and statistical systems from international agencies.
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF) Data: Data is available by Country/Economy and by Indicator.
  • Statista: * * Statista, a data aggregator, has a wide range of indicators which can be searched by keyword and country. The majority are sourced from national statistical offices or IGOs.  ** Please note that this source is fee-based and is available via UNB Libraries.


Many resources have APIs that allow you to extract the raw data for analysis purposes. For more information on how to use an API or to see a listing, see the Finance & Investment Research Guide > APIs for Scholarly Purposes



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Business Information Skills Certificate (BISC): Research Guide Copyright © 2023 by Jeannie Bail is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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