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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

WHY DEVELOP COUNTRIES RELY ON DEVELOPED COUNTRIES?
Ben Reply
what is the determination of aggregate demand?
Maddy Reply
classical dichotomy and its components?
Romaisa Reply
what will happen to the demand curve when there is an inflation in an economy
Hamza Reply
From my view, I think the demand curve will shift inwards.
Bobo
now it depends on what kind of inflation it is, depending on the type of inflation the movement of the demand curve can be stated.
Munimu
yes it depends on the cause for inflation. if it caused by maybe an increase in money supply, the effect is neutral in the long term, therefore there are no effects on total output in the economy, except for an increase in price
Lucas
but short term in general i think you could expect the demand curve to shift inwards as consumers experience a decrease in real income
Lucas
source of capital for the sole trader
Dogbey Reply
borrowing from relatives, government grants, bank loans, personal savings, credit card etc.
Munimu
Suppose you are holding 2000 in a checking account and the price level decrease by 20 %how much it will affect your purchasing power and why
Iqra Reply
Hi Iqra, will answer your question soon.
Aleem
2000*0.2= 400 2000-400= 1600
Munimu
1600
Munimu
a price level decrease is deflation. it means you'll be able to afford to buy more with your 2000 and your real income becomes 2000÷(100-20)=2500
Lucas
the amount will decrease to 1600 and you can't be able to buy over this amount
Agogo
As an economist student discuss how the pandemic covid19 can affect the aggregate demand and aggregate supply thereby leading to decrease in GDP and standard of living of citizens of nigeria
Fadila Reply
hi how can you help me?
qusai Reply
can you send me the notes
Mohd
hello is what are you talking about?
Mousa
unemployment and low inflation    .
Abdirizaq Reply
Structure/Organization Of The Federal Reserve
Abdirizaq
sorry guys in macroeconomics what is different between inflation and intrest rate? please example for pandemic related maybe?
Siyanda
hello
Ramu
Is this Aap for class 11 and 12 only not for graduation?
ankit Reply
yeah like for du MA entrance
VAISHALI
okay
ankit
Aree i m also asking
VAISHALI
for du MA entrance. u shouldn't rely on app. Go for SAURABH SIR notes. available on flipkart.
Saurabh
ohh thanks
VAISHALI
pleasure
Saurabh
ooh
ankit
hello...how can I get full notes?
DR
what is inflation
Bright Reply
hike in price
shola
situation of rise in price with the fall in purchasing power of money
Almina
cycle of corruption
Omkar
rise in price of a Nation economy in terms of trade
adebiyi
what is distruptive international trade?
NOEL
meaning of inflation
Jayakumar Reply
increase in general prices level in an economy.
Tayyab
increase in general price level
Abu
The fall in standard of living because goods and services become expensive.
NOEL
what is value added and how is it used in calculating GDP
Benedicta Reply
value added is final price of output minus cost of production. For example, let's say you make a shirt with raw materials that cost $20, and then sell the shirt for $35 added value would be 35-20=15. In calculating GDP, it is used to avoid double counting goods. Exp. eggs individually and in bread.
julian
as the price of tickets rises from $200 to $250, what is the price elasticity of demand for business travelers, vacationers using midpoint method
Buumba Reply
$300
Jb
@jb how do uget $300
Jeff
It means you are measuring the cost against availability.
Muyiwa
Explain how income taxes and transfer payments are used to stabilize the economy
Nakagwa Reply
reduce demand on scarce resources by reducing money supply.
NOEL

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Source:  OpenStax, Macroeconomics. OpenStax CNX. Jun 16, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11626/1.10
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