terms of trade
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terms of tradethe changing overall ratio of the prices (or VALUES) a country must pay for the goods and services it imports and the prices (or values) it is able to obtain for the goods and services it exports. This is usually measured by a quotient obtained by dividing an index number of the prices of goods and services sold by an index number of those obtained. In recent decades, a deterioration in the terms of trade between developed and less developed countries has posed a persistent problem for the latter, brought about by, e.g.:
- the substitution of agricultural products by synthetic, industrially produced replacements; and
- the ‘income elasticity’ (see ELASTICITY OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND) for foodstuffs (i.e. people in developed societies can eat only so much food). Efforts to overcome the problem of adverse terms of trade for many of the goods produced by poorer countries include the diversification of their pattern of production for international markets, but this, if it can be achieved at all, is a long-term process in which some developing nations (e.g. those richer in natural resources, and achieving relative political stability) are more successful than others. See also INTERNATIONAL TRADE, UNEQUAL EXCHANGE.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000