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In short, it is quite possible for nations with a relatively low level of trade, expressed as a percentage of GDP, to have relatively large trade deficits. It is also quite possible for nations with a near balance between exports and imports to worry about the consequences of high levels of trade for the economy. It is not inconsistent to believe that a high level of trade is potentially beneficial to an economy, because of the way it allows nations to play to their comparative advantages, and to also be concerned about any macroeconomic instability caused by a long-term pattern of large trade deficits. The following Clear It Up feature discusses how this sort of dynamic played out in Colonial India.

Are trade surpluses always beneficial? considering colonial india.

India was formally under British rule from 1858 to 1947. During that time, India consistently had trade surpluses with Great Britain. Anyone who believes that trade surpluses are a sign of economic strength and dominance while trade deficits are a sign of economic weakness must find this pattern odd, since it would mean that colonial India was successfully dominating and exploiting Great Britain for almost a century—which was not true.

Instead, India’s trade surpluses with Great Britain meant that each year there was an overall flow of financial capital from India to Great Britain. In India, this flow of financial capital was heavily criticized as the “drain,” and eliminating the drain of financial capital was viewed as one of the many reasons why India would benefit from achieving independence.

Final thoughts about trade balances

Trade deficits can be a good or a bad sign for an economy, and trade surpluses can be a good or a bad sign. Even a trade balance of zero—which just means that a nation is neither a net borrower nor lender in the international economy—can be either a good or bad sign. The fundamental economic question is not whether a nation’s economy is borrowing or lending at all, but whether the particular borrowing or lending in the particular economic conditions of that country makes sense.

It is interesting to reflect on how public attitudes toward trade deficits and surpluses might change if we could somehow change the labels that people and the news media affix to them. If a trade deficit was called “attracting foreign financial capital”—which accurately describes what a trade deficit means—then trade deficits might look more attractive. Conversely, if a trade surplus were called “shipping financial capital abroad”—which accurately captures what a trade surplus does—then trade surpluses might look less attractive. Either way, the key to understanding trade balances is to understand the relationships between flows of trade and flows of international payments, and what these relationships imply about the causes, benefits, and risks of different kinds of trade balances. The first step along this journey of understanding is to move beyond knee-jerk reactions to terms like “trade surplus,” “trade balance,” and “trade deficit.”

More than meets the eye in the congo

Now that you see the big picture, you undoubtedly realize that all of the economic choices you make, such as depositing savings or investing in an international mutual fund, do influence the flow of goods and services as well as the flows of money around the world.

You now know that a trade surplus does not necessarily tell us whether an economy is doing well or not. The Democratic Republic of Congo ran a trade surplus in 2013, as we learned in the beginning of the chapter. Yet its current account balance was –$2.8 billion. However, the return of political stability and the rebuilding in the aftermath of the civil war there has meant a flow of investment and financial capital into the country. In this case, a negative current account balance means the country is being rebuilt—and that is a good thing.

Key concepts and summary

There is a difference between the level of a country’s trade and the balance of trade. The level of trade is measured by the percentage of exports out of GDP, or the size of the economy. Small economies that have nearby trading partners and a history of international trade will tend to have higher levels of trade. Larger economies with few nearby trading partners and a limited history of international trade will tend to have lower levels of trade. The level of trade is different from the trade balance. The level of trade depends on a country’s history of trade, its geography, and the size of its economy. A country’s balance of trade is the dollar difference between its exports and imports.

Trade deficits and trade surpluses are not necessarily good or bad—it depends on the circumstances. Even if a country is borrowing, if that money is invested in productivity-boosting investments it can lead to an improvement in long-term economic growth.

Questions & Answers

what is division of labour
Dennis Reply
division of labour can be defined as the separation of task to individuals in any economic system to specialize on it.
Ahmad
what is demand curve
Victoria Reply
demand curve is a downward sloping economic graph that shows the relationship between the price of product and the quantity of the product demanded.
Ahmad
What is demand
Frank Reply
It refers to the quantity of a commodity purchased in the market at a price and at a point of time.
Basanta
refers to amount of commodities a consumer is willing and able to buy at particular price within a period of time
Clifford
It is the ability and willingness a customer buys a product or service at a particular price, place and time while other things remaining constant or the same
kum
In which case is opportunity cost is zero
Francis Reply
where no alternative is available
Bhartendu
who is the father of economic
Omar Reply
Adam Smith
Suraj
ok
Tony
Adam Smith
Francis
Adam smith
Opana
Adam Smith
Basanta
What is monopoly
Mauthoor Reply
it an economic situation where one individual controls the essential commodities or value product for maximum profit
James
monopoly is a market situation in which there is only one producer of a good or service which has no close substitutes
eliano
is where only one person is solely the price taker
Francis
what is Monopoly
Dauda Reply
The word Monopoly is a Latin word. it is the combination of two words-Mono means single and Poly means seller. thus Monopoly means single seller. but this is not the full meaning of Monopoly. Monopoly must produce a product which does not have close substitute in the market.
Basanta
Monopoly is define as a firm in an industry with very high barriers to entry.
Favour
If close substitute is available, Monopoly will be a king without a crown.
Basanta
what does it array
Cbdishakur Reply
what are the differences between monopoly and.oligopoly
Onome Reply
what are the difference between monopoly and oligopoly
Cbdishakur
The deference between Monopoly and Oligopoly: Monopoly means:A single-firm-Industry producing and selling a product having no close business and Oligopoly means:A market structure where a few sellers compete with each other and each controls a significant portion of market .
Basanta
so that the price-output policy one affects the other.
Basanta
what are difference between physical policy and monotory policy
hon
what is economic
Emakpor Reply
what is economic
Cbdishakur
the word economic was derived from the Greek word oikos (a house)and mein(to manage) which in effect meant managing a household with the limited funds available 🙂.
Basanta
good excample about scarsity
hon
An Enquiry into the nature and causes of wealth Nations, this book clearly defined what economic is🙂🙂🙏🙏 thank you...
Basanta
good example about scarcity: money,time, energy, human or natural resources. Scarcity of resources implies that there supply is very much limited in relation to demand.
Basanta
equilibrium is a situation in which economic forces such as demand and supply are balanced and in the absence of external influences,the value of economic variables will not change
Onome Reply
hmnn
Emakpor
marginal cost and marginal revenue is equilibrium .
Kho
yessss
Basanta
what is equilibrium
Rodrice Reply
policy prescriptions for unemployment
Jeslyne Reply
Am working on it
Blacks
Study
Janelle
study
simeon
what are the factors effecting demand sedule
Kalimu Reply
we should talk about more important topics, you can search it on Google n u will find your answer we should try to focus on how we can improve our society using economics
shubham
so good night
hon
Why do people buy more grapes in December than in July?
lungi
ways of improving human capital
kelly Reply
what is human capital
kelly
Capital can be defined as man made assets use in production .
Abdulai
What is the differences between central Bank And Commercial Bank ?. 2 for each
Abdulai
Two types of bank clearing house.
Abdulai
what are the most durable assets of a bank
Ngongang

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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