Balance of Trade vs. Balance of Payment – All You Need To Know

If you want to know about the transactions that your country makes with the rest of the world or about foreign exchange or international trade, then you must know what Balance of Trade (BoT) and Balance of Payment (BoP) means. Often both these terms are used interchangeably. But, both are very different from each other. To understand what both these terms mean, we need to know the differences between Balance of Trade vs Balance of Payment.

Balance of Trade

Balance of Trade (BoT) is the balance of a country’s export minus imports. Exports imply anything that is manufactured or sourced locally but is sold in the foreign land. This could be anything from clothes to the heavy equipment, and so on. On the other hand, import here means all the goods that the country buys from foreign countries. A point to note is that BoT includes only visible goods and not services.

We can calculate the balance of trade using a simple formula. The formula to calculate the balance of trade is: Exports of the country – Imports of the country.

Interpretation of the balance of trade is not as simple as it seems and often leads to misconception. The common understanding is that the positive trade balance is always good for the economy and negative is always bad. However, positive or negative trade balance does not always mean if an economy is in a good shape or not. Although the balance of trade offers some insight into the condition of the economy, it should always be read in combination with other economic factors.

Whether BoT is positive or negative for the country depends on various other factors. These factors are trade policies, political scenarios, global factors and more. A positive balance of trade or trade surplus occurs when the export value is more than the import value. On the other hand, when the import is higher and the export is less, then it results in the trade deficit.

Balance of Payment

Balance of Payment (BoP) includes all the transaction that entities (people, companies, and government) in a country make with the rest of the world within a definite period of time. BoP includes all imports and exports, along with transfer payments, such as remittances, aid from other countries and more.

BoP could be for a quarter, six months or a year. The primary objective of preparing a BoP is to keep a close eye on the flow of money and develop policies accordingly to make the economy stronger. Apart from the government, a company or an individual can also prepare a BoP for themselves.

In an ideal scenario, the balance of payment should be zero. This means the amount of money entering the economy and going out are equal. However, such things don’t happen in the real world, and the balance of payment for a country is negative or positive or we can say in surplus or deficit of funds.

Balance of Payment has three main components – Current Account, Capital Account, and Financial Account. The current account has two parts – Visible Trade and Invisible trade.

Now that you know, what both these terms mean, let’s see the differences between Balance of Trade vs Balance of Payment.

Balance of Trade vs Balance of Payment – Differences

Following are the differences between Balance of Trade vs Balance of Payment:

Meaning

BoT measures the export and import that a country does with the rest of the world. BoP, on the other hand, includes all the financial transactions that a country does with other countries.

How to Calculate?

To calculate BoT, we need to subtract exports from imports. To calculate BoP, we need to add BoT, foreign investment, cash transfer from abroad, capital account and any balancing item. Another way to calculate BoP is to add Current, Capital account and adjusting for Errors and omissions.

Scope

BoT has a smaller scope as it only deals with exports and imports of goods. BoP has a much wider scope. In fact, BoT is a part of BoP.

What does it Tell?

BoT helps a country know whether it is standing at net profit or loss in terms of exports and imports. BoP, on the other hand, ensures if all the transactions have been recorded or not.

Ideal Result

A country should have a positive BoT, means exports more than the imports. An ideal BoP scenario is a zero balance.

Balance of Payment vs Balance of Trade

When is it Favorable?

BoT is favorable when exports are more than imports. BoP is favorable when there is a surplus in a current account, and that is then used to pay loans in the Capital account.

Difference

BoT is the difference between export and import of goods. BoP, on the other hand, is the difference between the foreign exchange that a country receives and the total foreign exchange it pays.

Transaction Type

Entries in the BoT are related to the exports and imports of goods. Transactions in BoP could be for goods, services, transfers, remittances, foreign aid and more.

Component

BoT comes in the Current account of Balance of Payment. BoP includes both Current account and Capital account.

Inclusion of Capital Transfer

Balance of trade does not include capital transfers. Balance of payment, on the other hand, includes Capital transfers.

Exchange Rate

Balance of trade does not affect the exchange rate much. Balance of payment, on the other hand, has a major impact on the exchange rate.

Which is Better?

Since BoT includes only exports and imports, it gives an incomplete view of a country’s economic standing. BoP gives a better view of the country’s economic standing as it includes all transactions that a country makes with the rest of the world.

Final Words

Both balance of trade and balance of payment may appear simple from outside, their computation and calculation is very complex. Nevertheless, if you know can conceptualize both, it will become somewhat easier for you to extract relevant information, as well as, understand the foreign exchange policies of the country.1–3

1.
Amadeo K. The Danger When Imports Exceed Imports. The Balance. December 2019. [Source]
2.
Balance of Trade – Definition, Formula, and Example. Corporate Finance Institute. December 2019. [Source]
3.
Top 9 Difference between Balance of Trade and Balance of Payments – Googlesir. Googlesir. December 2019. [Source]
Last updated on : December 31st, 2019
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