Foreign Trade Meaning and Definition, Advantages, Disadvantages, Types

22/12/2020 2 By indiafreenotes

Foreign trade is the exchange of goods across national boundaries. Prof. J.L. Hanson said, “An exchange of various specialized commodities and services rendered among the corresponding countries is known as foreign trade.”

international trade refers to the exchange of goods and services between the countries. In simple words, it means the export and import of goods and services. Export means selling goods and services out of the country, while import means goods and services flowing into the country.

International trade supports the world economy, where prices or demand and supply are affected by global events. For instance, the US changing visa policies for the software employees will impact the Indian software firms. Or, an increase in the cost of labor in exporting country like China could mean you end paying more for the Chinese goods in the US.

Foreign trade is, in principle, not different from domestic trade as the motivation and the behavior of parties involved in a trade does not change fundamentally depending on whether a trade is across a border or not.

The main difference is that international trade is typically more costly than domestic trade. The reason is that a border typically imposes additional costs such as tariffs, time costs due to border delays, and costs associated with country differences such as language, the legal system, or a different culture.

Foreign trade is all about imports and exports. The backbone of any foreign trade between nations is those products and services which are being traded to some other location outside a particular country’s borders.

Some nations are adept at producing certain products at a cost-effective price.

Perhaps it is because they have the labor supply or abundant natural resources which make up the raw materials needed. No matter what the reason, the ability of some nations to produce what other nations want is what makes foreign trade work.

Need and Importance of Foreign Trade

Following points explain the need and importance of foreign trade to a nation.

  1. Division of labour and specialisation

Foreign trade leads to division of labour and specialisation at the world level. Some countries have abundant natural resources. They should export raw materials and import finished goods from countries which are advanced in skilled manpower. This gives benefits to all the countries and thereby leading to division of labour and specialisation.

  1. Optimum allocation and utilisation of resources

Due to specialisation, unproductive lines can be eliminated and wastage of resources avoided. In other words, resources are channelised for the production of only those goods which would give highest returns. Thus there is rational allocation and utilization of resources at the international level due to foreign trade.

  1. Equality of prices

Prices can be stabilised by foreign trade. It helps to keep the demand and supply position stable, which in turn stabilises the prices, making allowances for transport and other marketing expenses.

  1. Availability of multiple choices

Foreign trade helps in providing a better choice to the consumers. It helps in making available new varieties to consumers all over the world.

  1. Ensures quality and standard goods

Foreign trade is highly competitive. To maintain and increase the demand for goods, the exporting countries have to keep up the quality of goods. Thus, quality and standardised goods are produced.

  1. Raises standard of living of the people

Imports can facilitate standard of living of the people. This is because people can have a choice of new and better varieties of goods and services. By consuming new and better varieties of goods, people can improve their standard of living.

  1. Generate employment opportunities

Foreign trade helps in generating employment opportunities, by increasing the mobility of labour and resources. It generates direct employment in import sector and indirect employment in other sector of the economy. Such as Industry, Service Sector (insurance, banking, transport, communication), etc.

  1. Facilitate economic development

Imports facilitate economic development of a nation. This is because with the import of capital goods and technology, a country can generate growth in all sectors of the economy, i.e., agriculture, industry and service sector.

  1. Assistance during natural calamities

During natural calamities such as earthquakes, floods, famines, etc., the affected countries face the problem of shortage of essential goods. Foreign trade enables a country to import food grains and medicines from other countries to help the affected people.

  1. Maintains balance of payment position

Every country has to maintain its balance of payment position. Since, every country has to import, which results in outflow of foreign exchange, it also deals in export for the inflow of foreign exchange.

  1. Brings reputation and helps earn goodwill

A country which is involved in exports earns goodwill in the international market. For e.g., Japan has earned a lot of goodwill in foreign markets due to its exports of quality electronic goods.

  1. Promotes World Peace

Foreign trade brings countries closer. It facilitates transfer of technology and other assistance from developed countries to developing countries. It brings different countries closer due to economic relations arising out of trade agreements. Thus, foreign trade creates a friendly atmosphere for avoiding wars and conflicts. It promotes world peace as such countries try to maintain friendly relations among themselves.

Types of Foreign Trade

  • Import

Importing is the purchasing of goods or services made in another country. For example, importing edible oil from Chinese producers to sell in Africa.

  • Export

Exporting is selling domestic-made goods in another country. For example, Hameem Garments exports Readymade Garments (RMG) products to Western Countries.

  • Re-export

When goods are imported from a foreign country and are re-exported to buyers in some other foreign countries, it is called re-export.

For example, Firm/ Readymade Garments located at EPZs imports raw materials (cotton) from Korea and produces Readymade Garments products by Thai cotton and then those products to Canada.

Disadvantages of International Trade:

(i) Impediment in the Development of Home Industries:

International trade has an adverse effect on the development of home industries. It poses a threat to the survival of infant industries at home. Due to foreign competition and unrestricted imports, the upcoming industries in the country may collapse.

(ii) Economic Dependence:

The underdeveloped countries have to depend upon the developed ones for their economic development. Such reliance often leads to economic exploitation. For instance, most of the underdeveloped countries in Africa and Asia have been exploited by European countries.

(iii) Political Dependence:

International trade often encourages subjugation and slavery. It impairs economic independence which endangers political dependence. For example, the Britishers came to India as traders and ultimately ruled over India for a very long time.

(iv) Mis-utilisation of Natural Resources:

Excessive exports may exhaust the natural resources of a country in a shorter span of time than it would have been otherwise. This will cause economic downfall of the country in the long run.

(v) Import of Harmful Goods:

Import of spurious drugs, luxury articles, etc. adversely affects the economy and well-being of the people.

(vi) Storage of Goods:

Sometimes the essential commodities required in a country and in short supply are also exported to earn foreign exchange. This results in shortage of these goods at home and causes inflation. For example, India has been exporting sugar to earn foreign trade exchange; hence the exalting prices of sugar in the country.

(vii) Danger to International Peace:

International trade gives an opportunity to foreign agents to settle down in the country which ultimately endangers its internal peace.

(viii) World Wars:

International trade breeds rivalries amongst nations due to competition in the foreign markets. This may eventually lead to wars and disturb world peace.

(ix) Hardships in times of War:

International trade promotes lopsided development of a country as only those goods which have comparative cost advantage are produced in a country. During wars or when good relations do not prevail between nations, many hardships may follow.