Fact Checked

What Are the Most Important Issues in International Trade?

Jan Fletcher
Jan Fletcher

The most important issues in international trade include economic upheavals and inequities, an international workforce, and food and product safety. Widespread poverty in some areas of the world, and illegal trading are also issues that concern politicians and economists. In addition, enforcement issues are an important aspect of international trade, as well as political variables.

Economic upheavals have tended to amplify as international trade has increased. This is due to in part to the increase in complex financial linkages between financiers and the world's governments. The increasing variation in supply and demand place stress upon supply chains and put pressure on commodity prices. Since widespread economic prosperity is typically a goal for most nations in the world, stability is commonly considered to be an important part of increasing a nation's overall economic well-being.

Unreported income feeds the underground economy.
Unreported income feeds the underground economy.

As the world's trading system has grown more complex, there are more areas open to speculative assaults on the system as a whole. Compounding the problem, according to many experts, is the size of the world's trading system, with its myriad of governments, players, and variables. These factors tend to decrease the accuracy of long-term economic forecasts.

There are a number of regulations in place to regulate international maritime trade.
There are a number of regulations in place to regulate international maritime trade.

Among the most vexing issues in international trade is understanding and managing a worldwide workforce. Criminals may circumvent regulations governing immigration and fair labor. Politicians have found, in general, that poverty is a politically destructive force that few countries can effectively resist. Since it is very difficult to keep desperate populations law abiding, restraining illegal immigration tends to become more challenging to control when poverty increases in a bordering country. National leaders of various countries depend upon tax revenue, but underground economies are difficult to tax and regulate.

Food safety is one of the most urgent issues in international trade. The longer the supply chain, the more likely it will be that when contamination does occur, it will be difficult to quickly locate the source. This poses a threat to public safety.

Human trafficking is a major issue in international trade.
Human trafficking is a major issue in international trade.

One of the most tenacious issues in international trade is crime control. Human trafficking, smuggling, and threats of terrorism place burdens on international traders. Verifying legitimate trade, and ferreting out illegal operations consumes valuable resources. This adds to the cost of shipping goods between nations. As a result, enforcement is likely one of the most looming issues in international trade, and trading partners usually expend significant funds on insuring goods in transit.

A continually shifting political landscape is among the most pernicious issues in international trade. It becomes more challenging for trading partners to efficiently operate when their respective nations experience a change in political priorities that impact trading. Sometimes nations establish embargoes, extract heavy fees, or allow illegal bribing to be commonplace. All of these factors can negatively impact international trade.

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Discussion Comments


I think that workers' rights in international trade is a very important issue and it needs to be taken more seriously. Companies who engage in international business need to make sure that the workers in other countries have the same benefits that workers in a developed country have. They need to get reasonable pay and they should not be overworked. And we need to prevent employers in those countries from taking advantage of child workers altogether.

I get so upset when I read in the news that there are still child workers in Asia or South America.


@ZipLine-- Those are great questions. I'm not an expert on international trade but as far as I know, the WTO (World Trade Organization) is responsible for establishing trade rules and enforcing them.

The WTO makes it easier for governments who have membership to the organization to trade with one another. There are a set of rules and regulations for all governments to follow which prevents issues due to different business laws in different countries. The WTO also has a dispute resolution program where governments who don't agree on tariffs and other issues can come to an agreement. Tariffs and subsidies are usually the biggest issues in international trade.

International trade really is an amazing system and it works very well for the most part. I'm not sure what the penalties are for breaking the rules but I know that they have them. Can anyone else pitch in? How does the WTO penalize their members?


How are international trade rules imposed? Who imposes them and what happens if someone breaks the rules?

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    • Unreported income feeds the underground economy.
      By: Tim Evanson
      Unreported income feeds the underground economy.
    • There are a number of regulations in place to regulate international maritime trade.
      By: gwen0
      There are a number of regulations in place to regulate international maritime trade.
    • Human trafficking is a major issue in international trade.
      By: Rafael Ben-Ari
      Human trafficking is a major issue in international trade.