What Is Balance of Trade (BOT): Formula And Examples

DailyForex.com Team

This is a comprehensive article to give readers an understanding of what balance of trade is, how to calculate it with examples and other knowledge related to balance of trade.

Balance of Trade Definition: How to Calculate & Examples

This article defines and explains the balance of trade. We clarify the trade balance formula and provide real world examples in this section. We also talk about a trade surplus and a trade deficit.

What is Balance of Trade Definition?

For a specified timeframe, the balance of trade (BOT) is defined as the difference between the market value of a nation's exports and the country's imports value.

The biggest portion of a nation's BOP aka balance of payments is the BOT. The trade balance between a country's products and the trade balance between its services are often treated separately.

BOT is also identified as the trade balance, the commercial balance, the international trade balance, or net exports.


  • The balance of trade (BOT) is the difference between a nation's exports and imports for a specified timeframe and is the most essential element of a balance of payments (BOP).
  • A trade gap occurs when a country acquires more products and services than what it exports in value terms, whereas a surplus occurs when a country exports more services and goods than what it imports.

How to Understand Balance of Trade in Details?

The BOT could be computed by deducting the cumulative export earnings from the combined worth of its imports.

The BOT can be used by economists to evaluate the overall potency of a state's economy. A nation with a trade imbalance or a bad balance of trade procures more services and goods than what it exports in regards to value.

A country with a trade excess or a favorable trade balance, on the other hand, exports more products and services than what it imports.

A trade surplus or shortfall is often not a reliable predictor of an economy's health; it must be weighed against the economic cycle as well as other economic data.

Germany has had the biggest trading surplus in relation to the current account balance in 2019. In terms of the biggest trade excess, Japan was 2nd, and China ranked in the third position.

In contrast, given the continued trade dispute with China, the The US had the biggest trading shortfall, with the UK and Brazil arriving in second and third position. [Source]

What Is the Formula of Balance of Trade And How to Calculate?

Trade balance formula = A nation's exports minus its imports

For instance, if the United States sourced $1.8 billion in 2015 but shipped $1.2 billion to other nations, the country would have a balance of trade of -$.6 billion, or a deficit of $.6 billion.

So, $1.8 billion in imports minus $1.2 billion in exports equals a trade deficit of $.6 billion.

What Are Examples of Balance of Trade?

There are some nations where a trade gap is all but certain. Consider America, where a deficit is not even a new occurrence.

Indeed, the country has been running a trade imbalance ever since the 1970s. All through the majority of the nineteenth century, the US also ran a trade deficit. Between 1800 and 1870, the United States ran a trade deficit for all but three years. [Source]

China's trade surplus, on the other hand, has elevated even though the COVID-19 outbreak has curtailed international trade.

In July 2020, China produced a $110 billion excess in manufactured products off $230 billion in exported goods, implying that, even when imported components are included, China is on its way to exporting $2 value of consumer products per each manufactured good imported. [Source]

Again, the United States imported $239 billion in goods and services in August 2020 but exported only $171.9 billion in goods and services to other countries. So, in August, the United States had a trade balance of -$67.1 billion, or a $67.1 billion trade deficit.

Understanding Favorable and Unfavorable Trade Balance

a) Positive Trade Balance

Numerous countries pursue trade initiatives that favor a trade surplus.

These countries consider selling more goods and obtaining more funds for their citizens, believing that this will lead to higher living standards and a competitive edge for domestic firms. This is correct for some in the short term at least.

Sadly, some countries take recourse to trade protection in order to sustain a trade surplus. Customs duties, price controls, and subsidization on imports are used to protect local industries.

Other nations quickly retaliate with defensive actions, restrictive regulations, resulting in a trade conflict. This invariably leads to price inflation, decreased international trade, and worsening economic situations for all countries.

b) Negative Trade Balance

A deficit or negative BOT can be undesirable for a country, particularly one in which the economy is heavily reliant on raw materials exports.

In a broad sense, this category of country imports a great deal of goods and services. As a consequence, its domestic industries lack the experience required to produce value-added goods. Instead, its economy is becoming more reliant on turbulent global prices.

Some nations are so hostile to trade deficiencies that they practise mercantilism, an aggressive interpretation of nationalism in which a trade surplus is sought and maintained at all costs.

Mercantilism promotes protectionist policies including tariff barriers and import restrictions, which can help to improve the trade balance.

However, they frequently result in retaliatory actions of protectionist measures, which lead to higher buyer costs, diminished global trade, and slow economic growth.

What Is the Difference Between Balance of Trade and Balance of Payments?

The balance of payments aka BOP is among the most essential pieces in BOT. BOP includes global investments as well as the net income generated on those financial assets in addition to the balance of trade.

A nation could have a trade deficit while still maintaining a balance of payments excess. A major investment surplus could compensate for a deficit.

That is only possible if the capital report has a large surplus. Foreign nationals, for instance, could make large investments in a nation's assets. They might invest in property, oil drilling operational processes, or local companies.

The cash balance keeps track of assets that generate future revenue, including copyrights. As a consequence, it would infrequently run a large sufficient surplus to cover a trade imbalance.


We hope our guide was able to give you clarity on the different aspects of balance of trade. If you wish to know more about BOT, leave your queries in the comments section below!


1. When is the trade balance positive?

Most nations work to develop policies that promote long-term trade surpluses. They consider a surplus to be a beneficial trade balance since it is thought to increase a country's profit. Furthermore, countries choose to make sales rather than buy the products that generate more wealth for their inhabitants, resulting in a better standard of living. It is also advantageous for their businesses to achieve a competitive edge in expertise by exporting. As a result, more jobs are created as businesses hire more employees and bring in more revenue.

2. When is the trade balance negative?

In most cases, trade deficits are an unfavorable balance of trade for a country. Geographical locations with trade imbalances, as a characteristic, sell only raw resources and import a large number of consumer goods.

Domestic companies in such nations do not gain valuable skills required to produce value-added products on the market because they are the primary raw resource supplier. As a result, the financial systems of such nations become increasingly dependent on international commodities prices.

3. Why is balance of trade important?

A country's balance of trade is an essential element of its payment balance and a significant component of its trading ecosystem. A favorable balance of trade indicates that the country has a trade surplus, whereas a negative trade balance indicates that the country has a trade deficit.

4. What are the benefits of balance of trade?

The balance of trade is beneficial since it gives information regarding the difference in financial value between a country's exports and imports in a given time period. A significant difference exists between a trade balance for products and services. The balance of trade monitors the flow of external trade over a specified timeframe. The concept of trade balance does not imply that trade flows are in alignment with one another.

5. How does the balance of trade affect the economy?

The balance of trade affects currency rates by influencing foreign exchange demand and supply. When a country's economic account doesn't quite net to nil is, when export earnings do not average imports—the nation's currency has comparatively more supply or demand.

DailyForex.com Team
The DailyForex.com team is comprised of analysts and researchers from around the world who watch the market throughout the day to provide you with unique perspectives and helpful analysis that can help improve your Forex trading.

Did you like what you read? Let us know what you think!

exclamation mark

Please make sure your comments are appropriate and that they do not promote services or products, political parties, campaign material or ballot propositions. Comments that contain abusive, vulgar, offensive, threatening or harassing language, or personal attacks of any kind will be deleted. Comments including inappropriate will also be removed.

0 User comments

exclamation mark

Please make sure your comments are appropriate and that they do not promote services or products, political parties, campaign material or ballot propositions. Comments that contain abusive, vulgar, offensive, threatening or harassing language, or personal attacks of any kind will be deleted. Comments including inappropriate will also be removed.

Read more
Add new comment
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.