The Difference between Level of Trade and the Trade Balance

Self-Check Questions

The United States exports 14% of GDP while Germany exports about 50% of its GDP. Explain what that means.


Germany has a higher level of trade than the United States. The United States has a large domestic economy so it has a large volume of internal trade.

Explain briefly whether each of the following would be more likely to lead to a higher level of trade for an economy, or a greater imbalance of trade for an economy.

  1. Living in an especially large country
  2. Having a domestic investment rate much higher than the domestic savings rate
  3. Having many other large economies geographically nearby
  4. Having an especially large budget deficit
  5. Having countries with a tradition of strong protectionist legislation shutting out imports


  1. A large economy tends to have lower levels of international trade, because it can do more of its trade internally, but this has little impact on its trade imbalance.
  2. An imbalance between domestic physical investment and domestic saving (including government and private saving) will always lead to a trade imbalance, but has little to do with the level of trade.
  3. Many large trading partners nearby geographically increases the level of trade, but has little impact one way or the other on a trade imbalance.
  4. The answer here is not obvious. An especially large budget deficit means a large demand for financial capital which, according to the national saving and investment identity, makes it somewhat more likely that there will be a need for an inflow of foreign capital, which means a trade deficit.
  5. A strong tradition of discouraging trade certainly reduces the level of trade. However, it does not necessarily say much about the balance of trade, since this is determined by both imports and exports, and by national levels of physical investment and savings.