The global exchange of capital, goods and services also referred to as national trade is the pre-dominant part of all economies. Advancement in time of transportation, transnational corporations, globalization and outsourcing practices have led to the growth and importance of international trade (Anderson et al, 1993). This importance accrues from the amount of revenue this trade generates. The importance of this trade is apparent in the amount of money, time, human and other resources that go into the planning of global trade affairs (Bhagwati, 1992).
Entire ministries and budgets are dedicated to prepare transnational trade efforts. Memberships to regional trade bodies such as the European Union receive higher priority than political alliances while negotiation of trade treaties takes more of the leadership’s time (Dixit et al, 1980). In addition to political envoys, governments have trade consuls in other nations (Mattli, 1999). It is thus alarming for a country to realize that her international trade position is not attaining the targets that would indicate prosperity.
The UK is one of such whereby her deficit in goods and services has risen from 2. 2 to 3. 5 billion pounds between august and September 2009. The deficit with European Union countries widened in the same period. while that with non European countries replicated the downward trend. It is also reported that except for Oil and erratic commodities, the volume of exports in September was 0. 2 percent lower than the previous months with imports being higher by 4. 1 percent (ONS, 2009).
This indicates an alarming trend which the concerned departments need to look into. Perhaps the downturn is due to external factors that might be within reach or not. However trade policy needs to be reviewed to check this spiral. This is especially to deal with identification of new global markets that can be used to add to the export tally thereby reducing the deficit. A look at theories of trade can assist in identifying new markets and potential angles that can be exploited to correct the adverse situation.
International Trade Theories There are two broad themes in theories of international trade. The qualitative theories explain a country’s trade patterns, that is which products are traded and why. Instances are absolute advantage and comparative advantage. There are also quantitative theories that explain the terms of trade for instance relative prices of exports and imports in the trading activities. Changes in data such as factor supplies, technology, trade policy and global trends also come in as quantitative themes.
More importantly in these quantitative analyses, there is consistent use of the general equilibrium (Dixit et al, 1980). The Mercantilist Theory. This is a qualitative theme in international trade. It postulates that while exporting is good for a country, importing is to be avoided. This rationale is based on the assumption of fact that revenue from exports is in gold standard currency. Thus accumulation of sufficient gold reserves can only be achieved through high rates of export.
Mercantilism argued for close government regulation for two reasons: to maintain a favourable balance of trade thereby advancing aggressive export with restrictive import policies; and to promote the processing of raw materials at home instead of importing manufactured goods, which would distort production and employment at home. This is a classical theory that ignores not only the benefits of importing but also the reality that no country is self sufficient thus a need to import is inherent.
An example of application is the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs where Canadian traders have been informed that the Embassy’s mandate is to help exporters and non-disclosure of import relevant information. Absolute Advantage. Smith’s Theory of Absolute Advantage stated that countries should concentrate on producing what they are best at; that is products that they have absolute advantage in, Incentive to trade among countries is therefore created since each specializes in one product. Also as a classical theory, it is applicability is scant.
In summary Smith’s theory stated that unilateral trade liberalisation would be an advantageous policy for a country to follow, irrespective of the trade policies pursued by other countries. A drawback in Smith’s postulation is if a nation has no absolute advantage over any of her potential trading partners with respect to any goods or services, then it means international trade is of no relevance to her (Dixit et al, 1980). Comparative Advantage Comparative advantage as developed by David Ricardo in his book, ‘The Principles of Political Economy’, is an improvement of the Absolute advantage theory.
It declares that countries can trade without absolute advantage. They need comparative advantage where the relative cost of producing and exporting a product varies between trade partners. There are still benefits even if one trading partner is absolutely better in production. Comparative advantage has been the prevailing applied concept. It indicates that if two countries engage in trade, each will have the incentive to increase production, and decrease consumption, of goods in which it has the lower relative marginal cost prior to trade than the others.
For instance if Britain has competitive equilibrium prices of 300 pounds per TV set and 4 pounds per bottle of whisky, while Japan has corresponding prices of 100000 and 2000 yen respectively, then ceteris peribus, if Britain produces one TV less then she would be able to utilise the freed resources to produce another 75 bottles of whisky. Japan on the other hand is able to produce one more TV set by freeing redeploying resources used to produce 50 bottles of whisky. It is to their mutual interest to do so since the pre-trade, relative price of a TV set is 50 bottles of whisky in Japan and 75 similar bottles in Britain.
This is an inducement to Japan to expand TV production for export to Britain and import whisky from her. Presumably the relative price after commencement of trade will settle at between 50 and 75. The Ricardian Model assumes technology variations between nations. The assumptions in summary are: labor is the sole primary factor of production; Labor has constant returns; there is limited labor in respective economies; Mobility of labor across industries rather than countries; perfect competition situation.
This theory has in modern times been reviewed to include intermediate goods, that is, capital goods for instance machinery thereby adjusting the labor only notion. These intermediate goods are tradable across countries in the current global situation (Dixit et al, 1980). Factors Endowment. Ricardo’s Comparative advantage theory was modified by Heckscher-Ohlin Theorem, also the Factor Proportions Hypothesis. Here a country should export products that are produced using factors that it is relatively well bestowed with. This is a separate theory but it also gives an explanation on the underlying factors as to comparative advantage.
In each country, the factor that is relatively abundant is relatively cheaper. Also the good that is relatively intensive in using this factor this is relatively cheaper. Thus a country is expected to have comparative advantage in products that are intensive in the use of factors that are relatively abundant in supply. The H-O model assumed: inter sector factor mobility; distinction between labour and capital intensive; Factor variation between countries; free trade; and trans-country technology homogeneity. It however does not incorporate trade in intermediate goods.
It was later challenged by the work of Wasilly Leontief who discovered that The US exported less capital intensive than it imported labour intensive products, also the Leontief’s paradox (Trebilcock et al, 2005). Contemporary Theories These include: the specific factors theory where in the short run mobility between industries in labor is possible and not possible in capital. It resembles a short run H-O model. If there is an increase in the price of a product then the owners of the factor specific to that product will profit in real terms; the new trade theory seeks to cater for the fact deficiencies of the two main approaches.
That a lot of trade occurs between countries with identical factor of production endowment and the high level of multinational production, or foreign investment; the Gravity model that proffers an empirical analysis of international trade trends rather than the theoretical approaches detailed. It projects trade patterns on the basis of the distance between the nations and their economic size interaction. It imitates the law of gravity that factors distance and size. It considers factors such as levels of income, diplomatic ties and respective trade policy (Trebilcock et al, 2005).
Emerging markets are nations described to be undergoing rapid growth and industrialisation in social and business activity. The concerned nations are usually said to be in a transition to fully developed status. Data on these countries has been compiled and a list of the top economics proffered. Examples of the dominant emerging economies are Brazil, Russia, India and China. They have been given the acronym, BRIC. Included are: Latin American countries such as Argentina; Asian countries such as South Korea; Russia in Eastern Europe; some in the Middle East; and parts of Africa for Instance South Africa.
Lately though there have been shifts for instance Mexico has edged into the top four in terms of investment and development pushing ahead of Brazil. However China and India still dominate the list as the emerging markets with the best opportunities. As a factor of their GDP, population size, growth potential and level of imports (World Bank, 2000). These markets are characterised by robust economic growth, resulting in a rise in GDP and disposable income. Political and social stability is also an important indicator and condition for this categorisation.
This implies that the population is able to purchase previously un-affordable goods and services . However quite a part of these countries’ population remain poor. International companies are presented with a large untapped market, providing them with an opportunity for market and financial growth. Luxury products such as high-end automobiles, designer clothing, and other Veblen goods benefit from such; but it is every day luxuries such as cell phones and brand name food products that reap the most from these markets.
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