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Import Substitution Industrialization


Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) is an economic policy that promotes domestic industries by reducing dependency on imported goods. It focuses on substituting imports with locally produced goods, often achieved through protectionist measures such as tariffs, import quotas, and subsidies. The aim of this policy is to stimulate self-sufficiency, reduce foreign exchange expenditures, and encourage internal economic growth.


Using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), the phonetics for “Import Substitution Industrialization” would be:/ ˈɪm.pɔrt ˌsʌb.stɪˈtjuː.ʃən ˌɪn.dəˈstrɪə.laɪˈzeɪ.ʃən /Breaking it down by each word: Import: / ˈɪm.pɔrt /Substitution: / ˌsʌb.stɪˈtjuː.ʃən / Industrialization: / ˌɪn.dəˈstrɪə.laɪˈzeɪ.ʃən /

Key Takeaways

  1. Encouraging domestic industries: Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) is an economic policy that aims to promote domestic industries by reducing the reliance on imported goods. It encourages local production and consumption by implementing protectionist measures such as high tariffs on imports, import quotas, and subsidies for local industries.
  2. Reducing trade deficits and fostering self-reliance: A major goal of ISI is to reduce a country’s trade deficits by decreasing imports and boosting domestic production. It aims to promote self-reliance and economic independence by reducing dependency on foreign goods and technologies.
  3. Challenges and criticisms: Despite its intended benefits, ISI has faced various challenges and criticisms, including the risk of inefficiency, lack of competition, stagnation in technological advancements, and negative long-term effects on export capacity. Many countries that adopted ISI strategies eventually transitioned to export-oriented growth models due to these shortcomings.


Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) is an important concept in business and finance as it signifies a trade and economic policy that aims to promote domestic industries by reducing dependence on imported goods. This strategy, adopted by several developing nations during the mid-20th century, seeks to build a self-reliant economy through the encouragement of local production, investment in domestic industries, and utilization of local resources. By fostering national economic growth, generating employment opportunities, and enhancing technological advancements, ISI serves to mitigate the adverse impacts of an unfavorable balance of payments and strengthen a nation’s economic sovereignty.


Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) serves as a crucial economic strategy aimed at diminishing a country’s reliance on imported goods and fostering self-sufficiency through domestic production. The primary purpose of this approach is to stimulate economic growth, reduce trade deficits, and ultimately achieve a more balanced and sustainable development pathway. By encouraging the establishment and expansion of local industries, national governments employing ISI policies intend to fortify their domestic production capabilities, generate employment opportunities, and retain wealth within their respective economies.

The implementation of ISI often involves the utilization of tariff and non-tariff barriers, as well as subsidies and tax incentives to support local businesses and protect them from foreign competition. It also encompasses a concerted effort to invest in human capital, infrastructure, and technological advancements to foster a robust and innovative industrial sector. Whilst ISI has had varying degrees of success in different contexts, it has played an essential role in certain emerging economies, such as Brazil and India, where it has contributed to strengthening their industrial base and accelerating economic growth. However, it is crucial for nations employing ISI strategies to balance protectionist measures with the need for global economic integration to avoid undue isolation and maintain a conducive environment for international trade and investment.


Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) is an economic policy that aims to promote domestic industries and reduce reliance on imported goods by substituting them with locally produced goods. This strategy involves protective measures such as import tariffs and quotas, in addition to promoting domestic production through government measures such as subsidies and tax incentives. Here are three real-world examples of countries that implemented ISI policies at various points in time:

1. Brazil (1950s-1980s): Brazil adopted an ISI approach in the 1950s, which lasted until the 1980s. The government implemented measures like import tariffs, strict import quotas, and generous tax incentives to protect domestic industries. The focus was on industries like steel, automobiles, petrochemicals, and textiles. As a result, Brazil experienced significant industrial growth, and by the late 1970s, it emerged as one of the world’s leading industrial producers. However, this growth was unsustainable, and Brazil experienced a severe debt and inflation crisis by the early 1980s.

2. India (1947-1991): Following its independence in 1947, India implemented an ISI strategy to reduce the country’s dependence on imports and promote domestic industries. The government imposed high import duties on manufactured goods, provided subsidies to domestic industries, and established nationalized industries in strategic sectors. While the policy helped develop a strong industrial base, the growth stagnated due to the lack of global competitiveness and technology advancement. India eventually shifted towards liberalization and market-based reforms in 1991.

3. Argentina (1930s-1970s): Argentina’s ISI policies began in the 1930s during the Great Depression and continued until the 1970s. Argentina aimed to reduce its dependence on agricultural exports by diversifying its economy and developing domestic industries, particularly in the manufacturing sector. The government provided incentives and protectionist measures like import tariffs, quotas, and currency controls. While ISI policies initially spurred growth in Argentina’s industrial sector, by the 1960s and 1970s, the country experienced high inflation, low growth, an increasing fiscal deficit, and external debt. Eventually, in the 1980s and 1990s, Argentina moved towards economic liberalization and embraced market-oriented policies.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI)?

Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) is an economic policy and strategy aimed at promoting domestic industries by replacing imported goods and products with locally manufactured ones. This is achieved by implementing protective trade policies such as tariffs, import quotas, and subsidies to support local industries.

What is the main goal of Import Substitution Industrialization?

The main goal of ISI is to reduce a country’s dependence on foreign imports, encourage self-sufficiency, strengthen local industries, and ultimately achieve economic growth and development.

In which countries and era was ISI prevalent?

ISI was primarily prevalent in developing countries, particularly in Latin America, Africa, and Asia during the mid-20th century (1940s to 1970s). Some of the countries that implemented ISI policies include Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, India, and Nigeria.

What are the key components of Import Substitution Industrialization?

Key components of ISI include:1. Implementing protective trade policies such as tariffs, import quotas, and subsidies.2. Promoting domestic industries by providing incentives, financial support, and infrastructure investment.3. Focusing on large-scale domestic industries to maximize economies of scale and reduce production costs.4. Encouraging technological advancements and innovation within the country.5. Reducing the reliance on foreign currency by limiting imports and promoting domestic consumption.

What are the potential benefits of Import Substitution Industrialization?

Potential benefits of ISI include:1. Reduced dependence on imported goods, leading to lower vulnerability to international market fluctuations.2. Creation of jobs and increased employment opportunities.3. Stimulation of domestic industries, leading to economic growth and development.4. Encouragement of technological innovation and self-sufficiency.5. Retention of domestic resources and foreign currency.

What are the potential drawbacks of Import Substitution Industrialization?

Potential drawbacks of ISI include:1. Market distortion due to protectionist policies, leading to inefficiencies in production and potential monopolies.2. Reduced access to international markets and potential retaliatory trade barriers from trading partners.3. Dependence on government intervention, which could create market inefficiencies and corruption.4. Limited consumer choice and higher prices due to the lack of competition.5. Slower technological development and innovation, as local industries might face lower competitive pressure.

Is Import Substitution Industrialization still relevant today?

While many countries have moved away from ISI policies in favor of export-oriented growth strategies and more open trade policies, some elements of ISI can still be observed in certain regions. Governments around the world occasionally use protective measures to support specific domestic industries or protect them from foreign competition. However, the prevalence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and global trade agreements has led to a reduction in the use of protectionist policies overall.

Related Finance Terms

  • Trade Protectionism
  • Domestic Manufacturing
  • Infant Industry Argument
  • Tariffs and Import Quotas
  • Self-sufficiency

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