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Terms of Trade (TOT)


Terms of Trade (TOT) is a financial concept that refers to the ratio between a country’s export prices and import prices. It plays a significant role in establishing the economic health of a particular nation. A positive TOT indicates a favorable balance of trade as the country can afford more imports for every unit of export.


The phonetic spelling of the phrase “Terms of Trade (TOT)” is:’tɜrmz ɒv ‘treɪd (Tee Oh Tee)

Key Takeaways

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Definition and Importance: The Terms of Trade (TOT) is a ratio that compares a country’s export prices to its import prices, often used as an economic indicator. Favorable TOT can contribute to the economic growth of a country, whereas unfavorable TOT might lead to a decline in economic stability and prosperity.

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Influence on Balance of Payments: TOT has a direct impact on a country’s balance of payments. If a country’s TOT improves, it means it earns more for its exports compared to what it pays for its imports. This gives the country a surplus in its balance of trade, contributing to a positive balance of payments.

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Indicator of Economic Health: The TOT can be a good indicator of the economic health of a country. A high TOT denotes that the country is exporting more than it’s importing, essentially earning more from exports than spending on imports. On the other hand, a low TOT suggests that the country is spending more on imports than it’s earning from exports, hinting at potential economic challenges.



The Term of Trade (TOT) is a crucial concept in business and finance as it signifies the relative economic value or price of an export good(s) in relation to import good(s), providing insight into a country’s trade performance. A favorable TOT (an increase in its value) implies that a country can purchase more imports for any given level of exports, indicating an improved standard of living and economic health. Conversely, an unfavorable TOT (a decrease in its value) shows that a country must export more to sustain the same level of imports, reflecting potential economic trouble. TOT can influence domestic inflation, employment rates, and overall economic growth and stability. Therefore, monitoring TOT helps policymakers implement balanced trade policies, promotes sustainable economic growth, and maintains global trade equilibrium.


The Term of Trade (TOT) represents a key economic indicator used to analyze the relative health and stability of a country’s economy in the context of global trade. Essentially, it serves as a critical tool to illustrate the balance between a country’s export prices and its import prices. Higher export prices relative to import prices will result in a more favorable TOT, which is an advantageous position as it means that the country can buy more imports for a given level of exports.The TOT is often used by economic analysts and policymakers to make important decisions, such as setting fiscal policies or developing strategic trade agreements. For instance, a deteriorating TOT (where export prices are rising at a slower rate than import prices or are falling relative to import prices) might indicate a trade deficit, which could lead to a weakening of the local currency and may require intervention. In contrast, an improving TOT may indicate increasing global competitiveness and could be a sign of economic growth and prosperity. Therefore, understanding and monitoring the TOT is vital for a nation’s economic planning and strategic decision-making.


1. Australia’s trade with China: Australia exports a lot of raw materials, like iron ore, to China which China uses to manufacture goods. If the price of iron ore rises while the price of manufactured goods stay the same, Australia’s terms of trade improve because they get more goods from China for each ton of iron ore they export.2. Mexico-USA NAFTA Agreement: Under the NAFTA agreement (now replaced by the USMCA), Mexico has been exporting less expensive products (like produce) to the U.S, while importing more costly products (like machinery). When there was an increase in the prices of machinery and a decrease in the prices of produce, Mexico experienced a deterioration in its terms of trade.3. Saudi Arabia’s Oil Trade: Saudi Arabia is one of the largest exporters of crude oil in the world. When oil prices are high, Saudi Arabia’s Terms of Trade improves – it receives more goods per barrel of oil exported. But, when oil prices dramatically fell in 2014-2015, Saudi Arabia’s Terms of Trade worsened since they were getting less return for their oil exports.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are the Terms of Trade (TOT)?

The Terms of Trade, also known as TOT, is an economic concept that measures the relative value of exports in terms of the number of goods required in imports.

How is the Terms of Trade calculated?

The Terms of Trade is calculated by dividing the price of export by the price of import, then multiplying the result by 100. Its formula is (Price index of exports/ Price index of imports) *100.

What do the Terms of Trade represent?

The Terms of Trade represent the quantity of imported goods an economy can purchase per unit of exported goods.

What does an improvement in the Terms of Trade mean for a country?

An improvement in the Terms of Trade means the country can buy more imports with the same quantity of exports, indicating a gain from trade.

What can cause changes in the Terms of Trade?

The Terms of Trade can change due to supply and demand, international market conditions, changes in commodity prices, variations in exchange rates and the quality of goods and services.

Why are Terms of Trade important in international trade?

The Terms of Trade are important in international trade as they help measure a country’s trading potential, the balance of trade, economic health, and potential for long-term growth.

What’s the difference between the Terms of Trade and the Balance of Trade?

While the Terms of Trade measures the relative value of exports in terms of imports, the Balance of Trade is the difference between the value of a country’s imports and its exports over a certain period.

How does inflation affect the Terms of Trade?

High inflation can worsen the Terms of Trade as it leads to an increase in the prices of exports, making them less competitive in the global market.

How do the Terms of Trade impact a country’s standard of living?

If a country’s Terms of Trade improve, it could lead to an increased standard of living as the country can now afford more imports for the same amount of exports.

: Can Terms of Trade ever be equal for two countries?

: It’s unlikely for the Terms of Trade to be equal across two countries due to differences in resources, product quality, technology, transport costs, taxes, and other trade barriers.

Related Finance Terms

  • Barter System
  • Export Price Index (EPI)
  • Import Price Index (IPI)
  • Balance of Trade
  • Net Barter Terms of Trade

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