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Use this guide as a starting point for your research, but remember that there are many more sources than those listed here. Visit the Research Help desks in any of the SFU Library locations to discuss your research in more depth, or use our Ask a Librarian online help services.
Business conditions & market reports
The following sources have tables with data on topics such as GDP, imports by commodity group, and price levels for large groups of countries. As with all of the sections of this guide, the sources listed aren't exhaustive - try looking for similar sources at the sites of international organizations.
CIA World Factbook
A good source for basic multi-country data covering key topics such as communications and the economy.
FTA Tariff Tool (via Export.gov)
Information about regional, country, and product tariffs and taxes. Also see the World Customs Organization, the WTO's Tariff Download Facility, and the International Trade Centre's World Tariff Profiles for more tariff resources.
IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook Key resource
Aggregates statistics from international organizations such as the World Bank, OECD, United Nations, WTO, UNESCO, and the IMF to rank countries according to their competitiveness.
International Labor Comparisons (ILC) program (Conference Board)
"Provides international comparisons of hourly compensation costs; productivity and unit labor costs; labor force, employment and unemployment rates; and consumer prices. The comparisons relate primarily to the major industrial countries, but other countries are included in certain measures." (Older data is available via the original US government ILC site.)
International Trade Centre: Market Analysis Tools Portal
Streamlined access to mapped trade data (trade, market access, export potential, rules of origin, etc.) for every country.
Key Indicators of Developing Asian and Pacific Countries
An annual statistical data book of the Asian Development Bank. Includes XLS and PDF files comparing 38 countries on such topics as population, labor force and employment, national accounts, production, energy, price indices, money and banking, government finance, external trade, balance of payments, international reserves, exchange rates, and external indebtedness.
Market Potential Indicators for Emerging Markets Key resource
A table comparing the market potential of the 23 countries listed as "Emerging Markets" by the Economist. Rankings cover such areas as country risk, market growth rate, and commercial infrastructure. There is also a link to the archives of the rankings back to 1996.
Easy access to data from sources such as the UN, the OECD, Euromonitor, and the CIA World Factbook.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) - Statistics
The OECD has many statistical publications as well as some free statistics at its web site. The link above will take you to their main statistics page, but many of the titles listed require a subscription. (Check OECD iLibrary below for such titles.)
OECD iLibrary for SFU Researchers
Includes publications such as OECD Economic Surveys, International trade by commodities statistics, Indicators of Industry and Services, and Quarterly national accounts, as well as many downloadable datasets.
Passport Key resource
- data on consumer trends and market sizes in almost 100 countries, including drinking and eating habits, spending patterns, and crime and culture indicators
- market profiles for the world’s leading industrialized countries
- thousands of market reports offering strategic analysis of consumer lifestyles, service and retail markets, global industry overviews, and in-depth consumer markets
- demographic and economic statistics, with forecasts, across 205 countries
Penn World Table
The Penn World Table is "a database with information on relative levels of income, output, input and productivity, covering 183 countries between 1950 and 2019."
Refinitiv Eikon + Datastream
Although Eikon's very detailed information on publicly traded companies around the world may also be useful, the true value of this resource for international marketing researchers could be its Datastream component in which you can find and chart thousands of economic & commodity time series, among many other topics. (This database is quite complex. Ask for help!)
Datasets sourced from 90+ source organizations, including the IMF, OECD, UN, WTO, and other international agencies. Simple to create charts using data from multiple sources, then embed those charts in your presentations. See these blog posts for more details about Sage Data (formerly known as Data Planet).
UNdata - United Nations Statistical Common Database Key resource
A compilation of United Nations and agency statistics, covering economic, social, financial, and development topics.
- World Development Indicators Key resource
Multi-country tables from the World Bank covering various demographic, economic, and trade factors.
- Data by Topic
Quick links to competitiveness indicators, ICT data, At-a-Glance tables, and more. See the left column of the site for links to Quick Reference Tables, Data by Country, and more.
- Doing Business: Benchmarking Business Regulations
Indexes for comparing 145 countries on topics like starting a business, hiring and firing workers, enforcing contracts, getting credit, and closing a business.
- Global Economic Prospects
"An interactive publication featuring a forecast database for all World Bank regions and income groups, including latest macroeconomic data [...]; insightful calculators and simulation tools; valuable one-page briefs summarizing countries' external financial position and trade; individual commodity reports and price forecasts; and timely analysis of worldwide economic prospects and risk."
- Atlas of Global Development
Maps and graphs more than 175 thematically organized indicators for over 200 countries, letting you visualize and compare progress on the most important development challenges facing our world. The eAtlas uses World Development Indicators.
For general information about how to conduct search in the Library Catalogue, please refer to Library Catalogue search guide.
To search for books by subject heading, use the Browse Search option in the SFU Library Catalogue, then select Subject browse from the drop-down menu.
Search the SFU Library Catalogue by subject under the following headings to find books and reports:
- country name - commerce e.g.: China - commerce
- country name - economic conditions e.g.: Korea (South) - economic conditions
- country name - social conditions e.g.: India - social conditions
- Business enterprises, foreign - country name e.g.: Business enterprises, foreign - China
- International business enterprises - country name
Search the Library Catalogue by keyword or subject using terms such as "economic conditions," "statistics," "industries," or "commerce" plus the name of the country you are researching: e.g. "japan economic conditions" to find books, reports, and articles.
Search Article indexes (databases) for journal and newspaper articles about countries, as well as for detailed market/economic/industry reports.
Websites & publications
The sources in this section feature detailed marketing, trade, and investment information on a wide range of countries. If they don't have the data you need, try some of the sources listed in the Web guides section below. Note that some of these resources are available for SFU researchers only.
A.M. Best's Country Risk Center
Free risk analysis on many countries from the perspective of an insurance company.
Bilaterial Relations Factsheets (US State Dept.)
An overview of the bilateral relations between the US and each of the majority of the other countries in the world, including links to more information via USAID, the Library of Congress, etc. Also check the "Countries & Areas" section of the same site.
bne Country Reports via Factiva
Country reports on emerging market countries. Include macroeconomic, political, and industry sector analysis, and much more! See, also, The Business Year for additional reports and business news regarding emerging market countries
Canadian Trade Commissioner Service: Country & Sector Information
N.B. you must register for a (free) password to access many of these market reports. This federal government agency doesn't appear to produce as many useful reports as they used to, but we're leaving them on the list in hopes that they improve.
Doing Business guides Key resource
Many sources, from Deloitte to the World Bank, publish "Doing Business" guides that detail current tax policies, export regulations, economic environments, etc. for a wide range of countries. Some of them are relatively easy to find, but others require lots of digging. Check out the sites of PwC, Deloitte, Grant Thornton, E&Y, and other major consulting firms to see what they have to offer.
The Economist magazine
Provides economic and political profiles, core statistics, essential recent articles and summaries of in-depth surveys. See our blog post for details on how to be alerted when each new Economist issue is available: Never miss an issue: setting up email alerts for The Economist.
Energy Information Administration [U.S.] - International - Analysis
Reports on the energy industries in many countries, as well as links to other country-specific information, not all of which is limited to the energy sector.
Export Development Canada -- Country and Market Information Key resource
A product of Export Development Canada, this site offers current reports that "monitor political and economic issues and gauge opportunities in more than 200 markets around the world" from the perspective of Canadian exporters.
Part of the US International Trade Administration. Start with a Country Commercial Guide for your target country. This site provides many other resources to help US businesses compete globally; explore their Research Center to find information by country, industry, and topic. Also connect through to Trade Agreement (US) information for many countries via the related Export.gov site.
Global Property Guide
Although this site is aimed at people who might want to buy residential property in many countries, the information it provides may be helpful when you are planning for other products.
IBISWorld Key resource
Analysis of hundreds of US, China, and Global industries, providing insight into current and future industry performance, changing trends, operating conditions and supply chain linkages.
- Trade data online: "provides the ability to generate customized reports on Canada's and U.S. trade with over 200 countries" - by product and by industry.
- Trade data and market intelligence
- Invest in foreign markets
International Monetary Fund (IMF) - Country Information + data portal
Staff Country Reports, press releases, and occasional/working papers on almost every country. If you are quoted a price when you click on something, look for a link to the PDF fulltext version - it should be free. The Staff Country Reports are particularly good, but they can be long. Save time by checking the table of contents of the PDF files for the pages with tables and charts.
Oxford Business Group: Annual Reports
Country investment reports that provide in-depth, economic coverage on more than 35 emerging markets around the world.
Passport Key resource
- Data on consumer trends in almost 100 countries, including drinking and eating habits, spending patterns, and crime and culture indicators;
- market size data on 330 consumer products in 80+ countries, often with a forecast;
- market profiles for 8 of the world’s leading industrialized countries;
- thousands of market reports offering strategic analysis of consumer lifestyles, service and retail markets, global industry overviews, and in-depth consumer markets; and
- demographic and economic statistics, with forecasts, across 205 countries.
United Nations Industrial Development Organization: Statistical Country Briefs
UNIDO offers basic data on most countries of the world (GDP, manufactured exports, manufacturing value added, etc.) as well as more detailed statistics such as labour productivity and wage rates by industry. Note: As of February, 2022, UNIDO's statistics data portal is also now freely available.
World Bank Group: World dataBank
Tables drawn from the World Bank Development Indicators and other WB sources giving quick reference numbers for 206 countries as well as various regional groupings. Also see the World Bank's Doing Business database for details on the regulatory issues involved in setting up a business in any of over 145 countries.
Demographics & cultural analysis
Although rough demographic statistics (population, literacy rates, etc.) may be relatively easy to find, cultural information (what are local consumers' preferences regarding labels or bottle colours?) can be much more difficult to obtain. It's often necessary to make assumptions and extrapolate from secondary information.
The following tips are intended to help you identify and find potentially relevant cultural/demographic information, but remember that you may have to think very broadly and that, in the time you have to complete your assignment, perfect information may simply not be available.
Search the Library Catalogue by keyword using terms such as "social conditions," "politics AND government," "corporate culture," or "business etiquette" plus the name of the country you are researching. E.g.: try "France AND social conditions" to find books and reports.
Remember to scan any relevant keyword search results for subjects that you could use in a more targeted search.
A few good subject headings to explore:
- Business etiquette
- Business travel (watch for recent guidebooks specifically)
- Business communication (watch for books on specific countries/regions (e.g., Brazil) or on "cross cultural studies" in general)
- Intercultural communication
- Communication in international trade
- Industrial management - Cross cultural studies.
- (Note that these are just a few of the potentially relevant subjects. Think broadly - look for books that cover many countries if you can't find one on just your chosen country.)
For demographic data, start with Passport, but also consult the other print and electronic sources listed in the Country Reports section of this guide, as well as any of the international business web guides for statistics. Also consider the UN's Human Development Reports.
- Search for consumer lifestyles analysis in SFU's Passport - via Consumers (top navigation bar), but also check its detailed demographic data, with forecasts, on every country in the world Key resource
- World Development Indicators. World Bank: Access to over 600 development indicators including economic, social, environmental, business, and technology for more than 208 countries
What companies and brands are in the country now? Do they have something in common? What kinds of products are discussed in the news? What sorts of products are advertised? Search article indexes and online news sources for journal and newspaper articles on such topics.
Try the Business/Travel section of the US government's Country Commercial Guides.
Check web sites from within the country as much as possible so that you get a better idea of the culture. Read the advanced search options of most engines to learn the syntax for such searches.
Look for consumer culture material on a larger, related group, then make a judgment call about how much of the information applies to the consumers in the country you are studying. For example, you may want to look for general information on eastern European consumers and markets if you are researching Bulgaria. Similarly, you may want to look into Muslim consumers if you are researching Pakistan.
Vancouver is a very multicultural city: do you know of anyone from the country you are researching? Can you arrange to meet them? You might even consider looking for local cultural-social clubs.
- The Government of Canada used to maintain an excellent website on cultural differences around the world: Country Insights. It appears that the page has been deleted, but there is an archived version from 2021 that may still prove useful (though slow to load). Key resource
Company information & industry analysis
Note that the sources above (e.g., the Canadian Trade Commissioner and Export Solutions sites) often provide some useful industry overviews. You should also check out the many resources and tips described in the SFU Library guide to Industry Surveys.
Market share and rankings
- Search for market share data within specific countries in SFU's Passport (there are such data within Passport for thousands of major consumer goods companies).
- Market Share Reporter - several editions available online for SFU researchers.
- Search Business Source Complete, Factiva, and Nexis Uni for articles in the business press containing terms such as "top companies," "ranking," and "marketshare."
- Forbes: Various lists of top global or regional countries
- Fortune's Global 500
Directories provide information such as company or organization addresses and phone numbers, and may also provide executive's names, products, trade names, and so on. Here's a short list of some key directories to start your research:
- Hoover's Online via Nexis Uni
- Europages: The European Business Directory
Searchable directory of over 2,600,000 companies in European countries. A great way to find out some of the competitors in a sector if your project involves a European country.
- Kompass: The Business to Business Search engine
Get lists of key companies in specific industries for countries, regions, or the whole world. Note that without a (paid) subscription you can only view partial lists, but these will at least give you some idea of the main competitors in an area.
- Mergent Intellect: Includes current Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) records for millions of firms around the world.
The resources listed above are just a small sample of the places you can look for company information. See Company Information or Annual Reports for further sources of information for Canadian and foreign companies.
Notes on key tools/sources
Most market research reports are not available free-of-charge on the web. They are proprietary information from commercial publishing houses such as Nielsen Canada and can be difficult (and very expensive!) to obtain. It often helps to instead think of who is likely to make information available, either for free or in articles, books, and reports available through your library. The usual sources of such information are governments, associations, and the press (including journals, magazines, and newspapers).
Guides that specifically focus on international business resources:
- globalEDGE: Insights by Country
Statistical data for nearly every country around the world, as well as information on historical, economic, and political conditions that may be relevant to doing business in each country.
- Europa World Year Book
Not really a "web guide", but Europa World does include detailed directories of government and other resource sites within every country in the world. Pick a country, then explore the directory entries in the table of contents to find resources in the areas of Society & Media, Business & Commerce, and Government & Politics.
- International Business Information Directory
This site has links to key IB sites listed in a reference book. The sites listed include online directories, news sources, chambers of commerce, government sources, stock exchanges, banks, and much more. It's arranged by region (e.g., sub-Saharan Africa is Chapter 7).
- WWW Virtual Library -- International Business and Economics
Featuring the categories of Academic and Research Institutes, United States and Canadian Government sources, Business and Commercial, and International Organizations, the WWWVL of International Business is a great starting point for your research.
Articles in the business press are a great source of information about companies, industry trends, new products, market projections, and other topics.
Article indexes (databases):
Academic Search Premier
Fulltext articles from a wide range of journals and magazines.
Business Source Complete Key resource
Thousands of business journals, magazines, and news sources in all business areas. Includes country reports from several key publishers such as the PRS (Political Risk Service), CountryWatch, Global Insight, and Marketline. Click on Country Reports in the right column of the main BSC screen to get to these reports, then click on the Publisher or Country tabs.
Covers Canadian newspapers, scholarly journals, popular magazines, and trade journals from 1982 to the present.
Factiva Key resource
Factiva provides over 33,000 sources from 200 countries, in 26 languages. The global range of publications provides both local insight and international perspective on business issues and current events especially with regard to research requiring current information on companies, industries, and financial markets. Be sure to browse the Region options on the main search screen.
- One of the key business news sources within Factiva is the Wall Street Journal. Direct links: WSJ-Eastern Ed. (US) and WSJ-Online.
The Financial Times is a single publication, rather than an entire database, but I'm including it here because it's such a core global business news source. Don't miss it! See this blog post for added context and instructions on the special access procedure.
Development studies and human geography are among the many areas covered by this international database. It can be a good source for academic articles on market structure in developing countries and regions. Sample search: Myanmar and market.
Fulltext database of business, legal, and news publications. American with strong international coverage.
Covers reports from thousands of research institutes and think tanks around the world. The types of policy research such organisations conduct is rarely explicitly on "business" topics, but is often highly relevant. For instance, see this search for the phrase "free trade". Read this blog post to better understand the role of Policy Commons in research.
PressReader Key resource
Thousands of newspapers and magazines from around the world with page-image versions of about the last 7 to 60 days. Great way to see advertisements abroad: What companies/brands are represented? How are the products portrayed?
Web-based news sources
These are just a few of the many international business news sources that you could try. Be sure to check out online article indexes such as Business Source Complete, Factiva and Nexis Uni for access to far more publications.
- Bloomberg BusinessWeek : Global Risk Briefing - note that the magazine, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, is also in Business Source Complete for SFU researchers.
- Google News - Explore the Language & Region options in the settings to change the edition and focus on news in your target country (e.g., news from Ghana in English)
- PRNewswire - "Full-text news releases & multimedia from public & private companies & organizations for business-to-business, investors, consumers and communicators across the world."