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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

a mixed economic system
Ngong Reply
What are the types of price elasticity of demand
Juliana Reply
what are massures to promote geographical mobility of labor?
Ngong
Is to make sure that a labourer to know more about his salary to earn before going to the direction
shehu
what is trade
PHILIPPE Reply
Trade is a basic economic concept involving the buying and selling of goods and services, with compensation paid by a buyer to a seller, or the exchange of goods or services between parties. Trade can take place within an economy between producers and consumers.
Miss
what is fisical policy?
ha Reply
fisical policy or fiscal policy?
Miss
what are.the characteristics of economic goods
Hamis
what are the importance of labour market?
Rachael
how discrib the rural development and their four stages
Sheikh Reply
ye economics se related ha
Sheikh
1..traditional stage..no science and technology is applied hence poor productionuu.2..the take off stage..some development strategies are initiated eg transport system is improved but the traditional cultural belief still remain .3..the prematurely stage..technological methods of production are appl
President
applied leading to higher GDP..4..stage of mass consumption..
President
What is Easiest Formula For National Income?
Tenzin Reply
national income/ agrrigate net value
Sheikh
what do you mean by the supply of goods
sachin Reply
supply of good refer to the total unit of production which is ready to sell at a given price
Tenzin
what is implicit cost
fuseini Reply
Yeah
MOHAMED
any cost that has already occurred but not necessarily shown or reported as a separate expense.
President
The links don't seem to be working
Scorch Reply
what is taxonomy
wise Reply
how to interprets elasticity
Joseph Reply
what is demand curve
Joseph
It is the graphical representation of quantity demand of a commodity?
Kofi
it is the graphical representation of price and quantity demanded of a commodity
Obaa
what is the difference between positive economics and normative economics.
pauline Reply
It said that positive economics studies the facts, but normative one focus on ought to be.
Mohammad
in another words normative economics focuses on what the fair situation is.
Mohammad
positive economics: wages are 10$ per hour. normative economics: wages should be 25$ per hour.
Mohammad
what is choice
Hamis Reply
what is indifference curve
Misba Reply
It is an alternative combination of consumption of two goods which gives equal level of satisfaction.
Shujjat
good morning guys.. I am Lawrence from Nigeria.. trust am welcome here..
Lawrence Reply
mashallah
Tanveer
are you ecnomist?
Noor
I am a researcher
jackie
you all are ecnomost
Noor
ohh nice
Noor
re search on economy
Noor

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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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