Trade Deficit

What is a Trade Deficit?

Where the total sum of goods or services a country imports from the other countries of the world is higher than that of the sum of goods or services a country exports to the other countries, then such a situation is known as trade deficit which is the opposite of balance of trade theory.

Trade Deficit Formula

Trade Deficit = Value of Imports – Value Of Exports
  • A trade deficit is an amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports. It is a measure of an outflow of domestic currency in foreign markets. Which we can easily calculate by subtracting the total country’s exports to the country’s total value imports in a certain span of time.
  • It typically arises when a country is not sufficient to produce enough goods to meet the nation’s requirements. In some of the cases, a deficit is also a signal that shows a country’s consumers are wealthier to purchase goods than other countries.
  • The measure of a country’s net imports or net exports is quite tedious, it involves different accounts that measure different flows of investment through the current account and the financial account.
  • In the current account, we keep an account of all the transactions involved whether it is importing and exporting goods and services from different foreign sources or any money transfers between countries.
  • The financial account states more about the changes occur in foreign and domestic property owners.
  • The net amount of both accounts helps us to obtain the balance of payments.

Cause & Effect of Trade Deficit?

Cause: A trade deficit occurs when a country is not producing everything it needs a borrows from other countries to meet the nation’s needs. It also arises when companies manufacture in other countries.

Effects:  It raises the country’s standard of living, residents get wider access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices. And, it also helps to minimize the threat of inflation since it creates at a lower price.


We will try to understand this term with the help of the example:


Example #1

If the value of the imported items to the United States, was $2 trillion in the previous year, but the value of the exported items from the United States was $1.75 trillion, then the final outcome of the trade deficit of the United States would be a negative of $250 billion BOP.

Example #2

If we take historical data, the US had a trade deficit since 1976, while, China had a trade surplus in 1995.

US Trade Deficit

Trade Deficit - US


China Trade Surplus

Trade Surplus - China 1


For the study of a country’s balance of trade, a trade surplus or trade deficit is not always sufficient, we need a final indicator of an economy’s health which can be considered during the study of the business cycleBusiness CycleThe business cycle represents the expansion and contraction of the economy that occurs due to ups and downs in the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country. It is experienced over the long term and goes parallel with the natural growth more and other economic indicators.


  • As per Nobel Prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman spoke that Trade deficits are not as harmful as it seems because the currency will always come back to the country in one form to another.
  • It can be resolved naturally either by currency devaluations, increased foreign investment, or various other sources of investment.
  • It is an indication that the economy needs further improvement to create resources.
  • The existing source of a trade deficit does not fully imply that income is derived from foreign sources or for  US ownership of foreign stocks.


Key Point Due to Trade Deficit

  • As the economic theory suggests that consistent trade deficits give adverse effects on the nation’s economic outlook which directly impacts employment, growth, and devaluing its currency.
  • The United States, which is known as the world’s largest deficit nation. has proven these theories wrong. Due to its special status in the world and the dollar as the world reserve currency.
  • Smaller countries are highly impacted due to its negative effects that trade deficit brings a certain period of time. While proponent alleges that any negative effect of deficit recovers with respect to change in time.
  • Large trade deficit largely affects consumer preferences which are mitigated in the long run.


A trade deficit is not always detrimental, because it has a capability to re-correct itself over time. Import more from other countries decreases the prices of the consumer goods-producing inside the nation boundary which helps to control the inflation in the local economy. While an increase in imports also provides an abundance of opportunities to interact with diversity available to a nation’s residents. A fast-growing economy might import more, due to continuous expansion which creates an increase in demand. Consequently, a trade deficit shows the economy is growing continuously.

Recommended Articles

This has been a guide to what is Trade Deficit and its definition. Here we discussed the cause and effect of trade deficit along with practical examples. You can learn more about economics from the following articles –