Modern Theories


There are many theories and concepts associated with international trade. When companies want to go international, these theories and concepts can guide them to be careful and prepared.

There are four major modern theories of international trade. To have a brief idea, please read on.

The Heckscher and Ohlin Model

The Heckscher–Ohlin theory deals with two countries’ trade goods and services with each other, in reference with their difference of resources. This model tells us that the comparative advantage is actually influenced by relative abundance of production factors. That is, the comparative advantage is dependent on the interaction between the resources the countries have.

Moreover, this model also shows that comparative advantage also depends on production technology (that influences relative intensity). Production technology is the process by which various production factors are being utilized during the production cycle.

The Heckscher–Ohlin theory tells that trade offers the opportunity to each country to specialize. A country will export the product which is most suitable to produce in exchange for other products that are less suitable to produce. Trade benefits both the countries involved in the exchange.

The differences and fluctuations in relative prices of products have a strong effect on the relative income gained from the different resources. International trade also affects the distribution of incomes.

The Samuelson and Jones Model

According to Samuelson–Jones Model, the two major reasons for which trade influences the income distribution are as follows −

  • Resources are non-transferable immediately and without incurring costs from one industry to another.

  • Industries use different factors. The change in the production portfolio of a country will reduce the demand for some of the production factors. For other factors, it will increase it.

There are three factors in this model − Labor (L), Capital (K), and Territory (T).

Food products are made by using territory (T) and labor (L), while manufactured goods use capital (K) and labor (L). It is easy to see that labor (L) is a mobile factor and it can be used in both sectors. Territory and capital are specific factors.

A country with abundant capital and a shortage of land will produce more manufactured goods than food products, whatever may the price be. A country with territory abundance will produce more foods.

Other elements being constant, an increase in capital will increase the marginal productivity from the manufactured sector. Similarly, a rise in territory will increase the production of food and reduce manufacturing.

During bilateral trade, the countries create an integrated economy where manufactured goods and food production is equal to the sum of the two countries’ productions. When a nation does not trade, the production of a product will equal its consumption.

Trade gains are bigger in the export sector and smaller in the competing import sector.

The Krugman and Obsfeld Model

The Krugman–Obsfeld Model is the standard model of trade. It implies two possibilities −

  • The presence of the relative global supply curve stemming from the possibilities of production.

  • The relative global demand curve arising due to the different preferences for a selected product.

The exchange rate is obtained by the intersection between the two curves. An improved exchange rate – other elements being constant – implies a substantial rise in the welfare of that country.

The Michael Porter Model

Michael Porter identified four stages of development in the evolution of a country. The dependent phases are − Factors, Investments, Innovation, and Prosperity.

Porter talked extensively on attributes related to competitive advantages which an organization can achieve relative to its rivals which consists of Lower Cost and Differentiation. These advantages derive from factor(s) that permit an organization to outperform its competition, such as superior market position, skills, or resources.

In Porter's view, the strategic management of businesses should be concerned with creating and continuing competitive advantages.