International Trade

From the time we are children, we swap things with others.

We give and take for mutual benefit.

This same principle of exchange and enrichment is what motivates trade between countries.

Trade is widely regarded as a spur for economic growth.

It encourages countries to specialize in certain areas of strength.

This enables the world to produce more goods and more kinds of goods than it otherwise could.

Since World War II, international trade has increased seventeen-fold, helping to ignite economic growth around the globe.

However, despite the obvious benefits of free trade, there are many who are motivated to limit it.

Tariffs, trade bans and quota restrictions can be used as weapons to punish competing and opposing nations.

This could lead to retaliation and a devastating trade war.

Some critics argue that not all trade is “good” trade.

Trading with poor, developing countries – where wages are usually lower and working hours are longer than in developed countries – can create an imbalance.

The result can be the loss of jobs in high-wage economies.

Should we embrace free and open trade with other countries despite these concerns? And should first-world economies be helpful toward third-world, emerging markets or fearful of them? 

Kevin “KAL” Kallaugher has been the resident cartoonist for The Economist since 1978. KAL Draws is a series of animated shorts which was commissioned by The Economist to illustrate finance-related topics like tax, trade and inflation for their specialized dictionary titled Economics A-Z.