Trade Balance vs Trade Surplus
Is a Trade Balance or Trade Surplus Better?
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Is a Trade Balance or Trade Surplus Better?
Because flows of trade always involve flows of financial payments, flows of international trade are actually the same as flows of international financial capital. The question of whether trade deficits or surpluses are good or bad for an economy is, in economic terms, exactly the same question as whether it is a good idea for an economy to rely on net inflows of financial capital from abroad or to make net investments of financial capital abroad. Conventional wisdom often holds that borrowing money is foolhardy, and that a prudent country, like a prudent person, should always rely on its own resources. While it is certainly possible to borrow too much—as anyone with an overloaded credit card can testify—borrowing at certain times can also make sound economic sense. For both individuals and countries, there is no economic merit in a policy of abstaining from participation in financial capital markets.
Back to: ECONOMIC ANALYSIS & MONETARY POLICY
It makes economic sense to borrow when you are buying something with a long-run payoff; that is, when you are making an investment. For this reason, it can make economic sense to borrow for a college education, because the education will typically allow you to earn higher wages, and so to repay the loan and still come out ahead. It can also make sense for a business to borrow in order to purchase a machine that will last 10 years, as long as the machine will increase output and profits by more than enough to repay the loan. Similarly, it can make economic sense for a national economy to borrow from abroad, as long as it wisely invests the money in ways that will tend to raise the nation’s economic growth over time. Then, it will be possible for the national economy to repay the borrowed money over time and still end up better off than before.
In contrast, some countries have run large trade deficits, borrowed heavily in global capital markets, and ended up in all kinds of trouble. Two specific sorts of trouble are worth examining. First, a borrower nation can find itself in a bind if it does not invest the incoming funds from abroad in a way that leads to increased productivity.
While a trade deficit is not always harmful, there is no guarantee that running a trade surplus will bring robust economic health. For example, Germany and Japan ran substantial trade surpluses for most of the last three decades. Regardless of their persistent trade surpluses, both countries have experienced occasional recessions and neither country has had especially robust annual growth in recent years.
- Trade Balance: Surplus and Deficit
- J Curve
- National Trade Data Bank
- Capital Account (Economics)
- Merchandise Trade Balance
- Current Account
- Income Payments
- Is it better to have a trade surplus or a trade deficit?
- Heckscher-Ohlin Model
- Linder Hypothesis
- The Balance of Trade as a Balance of Payments
- Supply and Demand Sides for Financial Capital?
- Flow of Capital
- Domestic Saving and Investment Determine the Trade Balance
- National Savings Identity and Trade Deficits
- How the Business Cycle Affects Trade Balances
- Trade Balance or Trade Surplus
- Comparative Advantage
- Absolute Advantage
- Specialization and Gain from Trade
- Absolute Advantage in All Goods
- Production Possibilities Frontier and Comparative Advantage
- Comparative Advantage and Mutually Beneficial Trade
- Opportunity Costs and International Trade
- Splitting Up the Value Chain
- How Economies of Scale Lead to Trading Advantages
- Closed Economy
- Import Quotas
- Double Column Tariff
- Infant Industry Theory
- Anti-Dumping Laws
- Non-Tariff Barriers
- Effects of Trade Barriers
- Who Is Benefited and Who is Harmed by Protectionism?
- Infant Industry Theory for Restricting Imports
- What is the Anti-Dumping Argument for Restricting Imports?
- What is the Environmental Protection Argument for Restricting Imports?
- Unsafe Consumer Products Argument for Restricting Imports?
- What is the WTO?
- What is the GATT?
- What are Free Trade Agreements?
- North American Free Trade Agreement
- Central European Free Trade Agreement
- General Agreement on Free Tariff and Trade (GATT)
- Common Market
- Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
- Central American Common Market
- Caribbean Community and Common Market
- What are Economic Unions?
- International Monetary Fund
- World Economic Forum
- Inter-American Development Bank
- Davos World Economic Forum
- Chamber of Commerce
- Jackson Hole Economic Symposium