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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Show the relationship between production costs and comparative advantage
  • Identify situations of mutually beneficial trade
  • Identify trade benefits by considering opportunity costs

What happens to the possibilities for trade if one country has an absolute advantage in everything? This is typical for high-income countries that often have well-educated workers, technologically advanced equipment, and the most up-to-date production processes. These high-income countries can produce all products with fewer resources than a low-income country. If the high-income country is more productive across the board, will there still be gains from trade? Good students of Ricardo understand that trade is about mutually beneficial exchange. Even when one country has an absolute advantage in all products, trade can still benefit both sides. This is because gains from trade come from specializing in one’s comparative advantage.

Production possibilities and comparative advantage

Consider the example of trade between the United States and Mexico described in [link] . In this example, it takes four U.S. workers to produce 1,000 pairs of shoes, but it takes five Mexican workers to do so. It takes one U.S. worker to produce 1,000 refrigerators, but it takes four Mexican workers to do so. The United States has an absolute advantage in productivity with regard to both shoes and refrigerators; that is, it takes fewer workers in the United States than in Mexico to produce both a given number of shoes and a given number of refrigerators.

Resources needed to produce shoes and refrigerators
Country Number of Workers needed to produce 1,000 units — Shoes Number of Workers needed to produce 1,000 units — Refrigerators
United States 4 workers 1 worker
Mexico 5 workers 4 workers

Absolute advantage simply compares the productivity of a worker between countries. It answers the question, “How many inputs do I need to produce shoes in Mexico?” Comparative advantage asks this same question slightly differently. Instead of comparing how many workers it takes to produce a good, it asks, “How much am I giving up to produce this good in this country?” Another way of looking at this is that comparative advantage identifies the good for which the producer’s absolute advantage is relatively larger, or where the producer’s absolute productivity disadvantage is relatively smaller. The United States can produce 1,000 shoes with four-fifths as many workers as Mexico (four versus five), but it can produce 1,000 refrigerators with only one-quarter as many workers (one versus four). So, the comparative advantage of the United States, where its absolute productivity advantage is relatively greatest, lies with refrigerators, and Mexico’s comparative advantage, where its absolute productivity disadvantage is least, is in the production of shoes.

Mutually beneficial trade with comparative advantage

When nations increase production in their area of comparative advantage and trade with each other, both countries can benefit. Again, the production possibility frontier is a useful tool to visualize this benefit.

Questions & Answers

what is labor
Grace Reply
labor is any physical or mental effort that helps in the production of goods and services
Kwabena
what is profit maximizing level of out put for above hypothetical firm TC = Q3 - 21Q2 + 600 + 1800 P = 600 MC = 3Q2 - 42Q + 600
Sosna Reply
consider two goods X and Y. When the price of Y changes from 10 to 20. The quantity demanded of X changes from 40 to 35. Calculate cross elasticity of demand for X.
Sosna
sorry it the mistake answer it is question
Sosna
consider two goods X and Y. When the price of Y changes from 10 to 20. The quantity demanded of X changes from 40 to 35. Calculate cross elasticity of demand for X.
Sosna
The formula for calculation income elasticity of demand is the percent change in quantity demanded divided by the percent change in income.
Sosna
what is labor productivity
Lizzy Reply
if the demand function is q=25-4p+p² 1.find elasticity of demand at the point p=5?
Puja Reply
what are some of the difference between monopoly and perfect competition market
Obeng Reply
n a perfectly competitive market, price equals marginal cost and firms earn an economic profit of zero. In a monopoly, the price is set above marginal cost and the firm earns a positive economic profit. Perfect competition produces an equilibrium in which the price and quantity of a good is economic
Naima
what are some characteristics of monopoly market
Obeng Reply
explicit cost is seen as a total experiences in the business or the salary (wages) that a firm pay to employee.
Idagu Reply
what is price elasticity
Fosua
...
krishna
it is the degree of responsiveness to a percentage change in the price of the commodity
Obeng
economics is known to be the field
John Reply
what is monopoly
Peter Reply
what is taxation
Peter
why do monopoly make excess profit in both long run and short run
Adeola Reply
because monopoly have no competitor on the market and they are price makers,therefore,they can easily increase the princes and produce small quantity of goods but still consumers will still buy....
Kennedy
how to identify a perfect market graph
Adeola Reply
what is the investment
jimmy
investment is a money u used to the business
Mohamed
investment is the purchase of good that are not consumed today but are used in the future to create wealth.
Amina
investment is the good that are not consumed
Fosua
What is supply
Fosua
 Supply represents how much the market can offer.
Yusif
it is the quantity of commodity producers produces at the market
Obeng
what is the effect of scarce resources on producers
Phindu Reply
explain how government taxes and government producer subsidies affect supply
Chanda
what is economic
Charles Reply
what are the type of economic
Charles
macroeconomics,microeconomics,positive economics and negative economics
Gladys
what are the factors of production
Gladys
process of production
Mutia
Basically factors of production are four (4) namely: 1. Entrepreneur 2. Capital 3. Labour and; 4. Land but there has been a new argument to include an addition one to the the numbers to 5 which is "Technology"
Elisha
what is land as a factor of production
Gladys
what is Economic
Abu
economics is how individuals bussiness and governments make the best decisions to get what they want and how these choices interact in the market
Nandisha
Economics as a social science, which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means, which have alternative uses.
Yhaar
Economics is a science which study human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means
John
Economics is a social sciences which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce mean, which have alternative uses.....
Pintu
how will a country's population be equal to it's labour force
Hope Reply
what is the meaning of ppf
Obeng Reply
Production Possibility Frontier
Igbekele

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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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