## Two Key Measurements: Balance of Trade and Balance of Payments

In this section we’ll look at two key measurements of trade: balance of trade and balance of payments.

One of the ways that a country measures global trade is by calculating its balance of trade. Balance of trade is the difference between the value of a country’s imports and its exports, as follows:

value of exports – value of imports = balance of trade

NOTE: It’s important to use this formula just as it’s presented, without altering the sequence of values.

Let’s look at the balance of trade for “Candyland.”

Candyland is located in a region that lacks phosphate as a natural resource. However, it does have an abundance of sugarcane. As a result of its comparative advantages, Candyland imports phosphate from Christmas Island (it’s a real place in Australia—look it up!) to fertilize the sugarcane it grows, and it uses the sugarcane to manufacture saltwater taffy, which it exports to Christmas Island. The following table shows Candyland’s imports and exports with Christmas Island in 2014.

 Imports (phosphate) Exports (taffy) 2014 $45,000,000$75,000,000

Using these figures, we can easily calculate Candyland’s balance of trade in 2014: $75,000,000 (exports) –$45,000,000 (imports) = $30,000,000. This means that Candyland had a trade surplus of$30,000,00 with Christmas Island, since exports exceeded imports. We can also say that Candyland was a “net exporter,” meaning they exported more than they imported.

However, the picture changed in 2015 when the Australian government closed the phosphate mine on Christmas Island. Candyland had to import phosphate from Morocco, instead, and was not able to get the same favorable pricing as before. Consequently, sugarcane farmers paid more for fertilizer, the price of sugarcane went up, and Candyland had to raise the price on its saltwater taffy. Sadly, the people of Morocco aren’t really big fans of saltwater taffy, so exports fell. The following table shows Candyland’s imports and exports with Morocco in 2015.

 Imports (phosphates) Exports (taffy) 2015 $65,000,000$55,000,000

We can use the figures to calculate Candyland’s balance of trade: $55,000,000 (exports) –$65,000,000 (imports) = -$10,000,000. The negative number indicates a trade deficit of$10,000, showing that Candyland’s imported more from Morocco than it exported. We would say that Candyland became a “net importer”—importing more than it was exporting.

Obviously this is a simple example. A country’s global business doesn’t amount to just trading phosphate and taffy or cell phones and blue jeans. It includes all kinds of financial transactions: goods and services imported and exported, foreign investments, loans, transfers, and so on. Tracking all these payments provides another way to measure the size of a country’s international trade: the balance of payments.

### Balance of Payments

Balance of Payments is the difference between the total flow of money coming into a country and the total flow of money going out of a country during a period of time. Although related to the balance of trade, balance of payments is the record of all economic transactions between individuals, firms, and the government and the rest of the world in a particular period.  Thus the balance of payments includes all external transactions of a country, including payments for the country’s exports and imports of goods, services, foreign investments, loans and foreign aid, financial capital, and financial transfers.

• For instance, if a U.S. company buys land or a factory in another country, that investment is included in the U.S. balance of payments as an outflow. Likewise, if a U.S. company is sold to a foreign company, it’s included in the balance of payments. Just recently, Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing service, bought Uber’s subsidiary in China in a deal valued at $35 billion. This sale will create a cash inflow to the U.S., but over the long term it will decrease the revenue flowing in from China through Uber. • If a nation receives foreign aid or borrows money from another country, this amount is also reflected in its balance of payments as a cash inflow. For example, the bailout Greece received from the Eurozone and IMF in 2010 to help stabilize its failing economy affected the balance of payments for all of the nations involved. Greece recorded the €110 billion loan as an inflow in its balance of payments, while the Eurozone members recorded it as an outflow in their balance of payments. A country’s balance of payments is calculated as follows: total money coming into a country (inflow) – total money going out (outflow) = balance of payments NOTE: It’s important to use this formula just as it’s presented, without altering the sequence of values. Let’s examine Candyland’s balance of payments in 2015. The following table shows all of its external transactions during the year.  Imports (phosphates) Exports (taffy) Foreign aid (loan) from Hooperland Purchase of Wandaland assets 2015$65,000,000 $55,000,000$25,000,000 $30,000,000 When we calculated Candyland’s balance of trade in 2015, we did not take into account the following two transactions: 1. Candyland received foreign aid in the form of a loan from the government of Hooperland in the amount of$25,000,000. This inflow of funds will affect Candyland’s balance of payments.
2. Candyland invested in a factory in Wandaland and purchased the factory from the government for $30,000,000. This outflow of funds will affect Candyland’s balance of payments. When we calculate Candyland’s 2015 balance of payments, by taking the inflows (revenue from exports and foreign aid) and subtracting the outflows (payments for imports and purchase of foreign assets), the balance is negative, as shown below: ($55,000,000 + $25,000,000) (total inflow) – ($65,000,000 + $30,000,000) (total outflow) = -$15,000,000

What effect will this have on Candyland? Well, when Candyland’s leader is briefed by her council of international economic advisers, they will inform her that the country currently has an “unfavorable balance of payments.” That is, less money is coming into the country than is going out. If, on the other hand, the balance of payments were a positive number (inflow exceeded outflow), Candyland could say that it has a “favorable balance of payments.”

At this point it’s tempting to make judgments about these different types of trade measurements and conclude that trade surpluses and favorable balance of payments are always indicators of a strong economy, but unfortunately it’s not so cut and dried. Balance of trade and balance of payments are starting points—much in the way that an individual’s credit rating might be a starting point for seeking a loan. How the numbers are interpreted and viewed by the country’s leaders, other countries, and the world depends on many factors, such as where a country is in its economic development, the factors contributing to the balance of trade or payments, the health of the overall global economy, what the country is doing with its imports, and so on. As you might guess, assessments of these factors can be intensely political. You’ll learn more about these considerations later in this module when we discuss how nations attempt to restrict or control trade.