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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Show the relationship between production costs and comparative advantage
  • Identify situations of mutually beneficial trade
  • Identify trade benefits by considering opportunity costs

What happens to the possibilities for trade if one country has an absolute advantage in everything? This is typical for high-income countries that often have well-educated workers, technologically advanced equipment, and the most up-to-date production processes. These high-income countries can produce all products with fewer resources than a low-income country. If the high-income country is more productive across the board, will there still be gains from trade? Good students of Ricardo understand that trade is about mutually beneficial exchange. Even when one country has an absolute advantage in all products, trade can still benefit both sides. This is because gains from trade come from specializing in one’s comparative advantage.

Production possibilities and comparative advantage

Consider the example of trade between the United States and Mexico described in [link] . In this example, it takes four U.S. workers to produce 1,000 pairs of shoes, but it takes five Mexican workers to do so. It takes one U.S. worker to produce 1,000 refrigerators, but it takes four Mexican workers to do so. The United States has an absolute advantage in productivity with regard to both shoes and refrigerators; that is, it takes fewer workers in the United States than in Mexico to produce both a given number of shoes and a given number of refrigerators.

Resources needed to produce shoes and refrigerators
Country Number of Workers needed to produce 1,000 units — Shoes Number of Workers needed to produce 1,000 units — Refrigerators
United States 4 workers 1 worker
Mexico 5 workers 4 workers

Absolute advantage simply compares the productivity of a worker between countries. It answers the question, “How many inputs do I need to produce shoes in Mexico?” Comparative advantage asks this same question slightly differently. Instead of comparing how many workers it takes to produce a good, it asks, “How much am I giving up to produce this good in this country?” Another way of looking at this is that comparative advantage identifies the good for which the producer’s absolute advantage is relatively larger, or where the producer’s absolute productivity disadvantage is relatively smaller. The United States can produce 1,000 shoes with four-fifths as many workers as Mexico (four versus five), but it can produce 1,000 refrigerators with only one-quarter as many workers (one versus four). So, the comparative advantage of the United States, where its absolute productivity advantage is relatively greatest, lies with refrigerators, and Mexico’s comparative advantage, where its absolute productivity disadvantage is least, is in the production of shoes.

Mutually beneficial trade with comparative advantage

When nations increase production in their area of comparative advantage and trade with each other, both countries can benefit. Again, the production possibility frontier is a useful tool to visualize this benefit.

Questions & Answers

Would you expect the kinked demand curve to be more extreme (like a right angle) or less extreme (like a normal demand curve) if each firm in the cartel produces a near-identical product like OPEC and petroleum? What if each firm produces a somewhat different product?
James Reply
what is supply
Mizta Reply
what is opportunity cost
The opportunity gained interms of opportunity lost is known as opportunity cost Or The second best alternative use of resources
forgone alternative: like forgoing Something our of two to buy one
what is macro economic s
Addo Reply
macroeconomics is the study of economic as a whole level.
meaning of positive science
Sumit Reply
positive science it is focused on facts and cause and effect and behavioural relationship and include developmental testing in economic theoreis.
what is inflation
Sama Reply
inflation is the general price increase of goods and services in an economy.
Inflation is the persistent rise in the general price level
inflation is characterized by increase in the general price of goods and services. when there is too much money in circulation. increase in demand of goods pursuing fewer goods. when purchasing power of money decreases .
inflation is the persistent rise general price level
inflation is the persistent increase in price
how are you
increase in the general level of price...
what is deflation
is the gradual decrease of currency exchange in a country.
why ecnomics important ? give answer plz
Because is a field of science study that reflects on our day to day activities with human behavior.
different between demand and quantity demand
Farhan Reply
No difference
demand is the overall demand for it
actually theres no difference
quantity demanded is used in Equilibrium of d and s
for evrything else u use deman
the difference of it is that when demand simply denotes the willingness and a person's ability to purchase. And as against quantity demand represent the amount of an economic good or services desire by a consumer at a fixed price .☺
how to calculate inflation
Richard Reply
Explain the factors that have led to high quantity demanded
Ogwang Reply
price of the product increase of price substitute product as people shift to cheap one
what are the methods used by trade union to increase wages of their members?
Black Reply
the size of the commodity
increase demand of labour decrease supply of labour
I do support your answer Jackel.
but how do they do it?
by increasing more labour and reduced the suppliers
they can not increase labour, they increase demand of labour.
how do they increase demand for labor?
by analyzing the market equilibrium , cost reduction and cost control , savings in time .
decreasing supply of labour are achieved through training and certification that require for you to employed, you must have certificate, also trade union encouraged government to restrict migration into the country causing shortage of labour supply. Note that the aim of union is to enhance life
objective of union: better working conditions, liveable wage, protect member from unfair treatment which are done through negotiations betweens representative and management. known as collective bargaining.
what is the nature of economics?
Tyscar Reply
economics is a social science since it seeks to solve social problem of scarcity
main concerns is the decision individuals make on the allocation of scarce resources among the competing wants
in the short run firm produce a positive as long as the price is larger than what?
yoel Reply
what is economic
Bah Reply
economics is the study of managing the resources in order to maximize the needs and satisfy the wants to a great extent in a regulated set-up..
One explanation for deviation when there is no impact on balance of trade
economic s is a social science that deals with human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which has alternative uses
economic is a study of mankind in ordinary business of life
economics it is the study of social science that deals with human behaviour as relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses
Economic is the use of scarce recourses to attain economic dough effectively and efficiently.
economics is the study of how humans make decisions in the face of scarcity. Eg. family decision, individual decision, and societal decision.
what is diminishing returns
Blessed Reply
what is the difference between calculus linear equation and derivative?
whats inferior goods?
jaamac Reply
Good having low quality , also known as giffin goods. When income increases people shift to better quality goods . Hence having a negative effect on inferior goods rather than positive relation ( ie when income increases demand increases but not in case of inferior goods ) example wheat and bajra .
What do u understand by the word ENDS in professor Lord L C Robinson definition of Economics?
Kaba Reply
I understand that ENDS is the unlimited needs of human. But we have limited resources to achieve our unlimited needs/wants. Thank you.

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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