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The daily benefits of trade

Whether you start your morning with a refreshing glass of orange juice (Spain) or a cup of hot coffee (Colombia), you are benefiting from international trade. We don’t give a second thought to the origins of most of the products we use and consume on a daily basis, but our modern lives are filled with such examples of otherwise unremarkable, everyday items which are only available to us because of trade.

Trade increases the choice of products we have on our store shelves – in terms of variety, quality, etc. – and lowers the price we pay for them. Some things cannot be produced locally, as is the case of many food items, and so can only be obtained through trade. Belgium, for example, is a leading producer of apples, pears and strawberries, a large portion of which are destined for export, but it has to import other fruits from abroad for local consumption. (Fun fact: Over 1.2 billion kiwis and 800 million lychees are imported into Europe through the Port of Zeebrugge each year.) But trade is also a choice. It allows a country like Belgium to do what it’s good at, to specialize in, say, the production of chemicals and pharmaceuticals – again, most of which will be exported – and import things that other countries can do better or cheaper, like consumer electronics.

Trade matters to us not only as consumers but also as workers. Many jobs in Belgium are, in fact, linked to international trade, either directly at companies which export/import or indirectly through their suppliers. Both the food & drinks industry and the chemical and life sciences industry, to retake the above examples, are significant sources of employment in Belgium. As trade grows, these companies will need more people, bigger warehouses and better logistics infrastructure.

A closed economy, on the other hand, would harm people and business, and could lead to instability and insecurity worldwide. It is generally recognized that the Great Depression was worsened by anti-trade policies and that the postwar peace and prosperity we enjoy in the West are greatly due to international openness and collaboration – including through trade.

In countless ways that go unremarked and unnoticed most days, we are all the beneficiaries of trade. Belgium is a trading nation and stands to gain from the promotion of open trade and investment policies.

Photo credit: Flickr/ Franz Jachim