Balance of Trade = Export - Import
Exports mean sale of domestic goods and services to foreign countries and imports mean foreign goods and services sold in the domestic market.
When, Export = Import, then Balance of Trade = 0. This situation is known as Balanced Budget.
However, in an open economy, the ideal balanced budget scenario does not exist. Sometimes, the import may exceed the export or in other situation vice-versa may occur.
When, import exceeds export in an economy for a given period of time then it is called Trade Deficit. That is:
Trade Deficit = Export (lower) - Import (higher).
Therefore, it is a negative balance of trade where there is outflow of domestic currency to the foreign markets.
Trade Deficit : Good or Bad?
Some economist see trade deficit as a result of loose monetary policy. An increase in money supply may boost demand for goods and services, including imports, which may lead to trade deficit. This may create inflationary pressure.
The word "deficit" may seem a bad word but it does not necessarily mean the economy is in a bad situation because there is trade deficit. Trade deficit may correct over time.
An economy can start producing more domestic products instead of depending too much on imports. It can also start exporting more domestic products to international market to increase its exports.
On the other hand, an economy can try to balance its trade by opting for a quantitative easing method at home. In this case, the domestic central bank of the country can print notes to increase the money supply in the economy. This results in inflation which devalues the debt owed by the domestic country to its foreign trade partners in real terms if the debt was made in domestic currency.
However, trade deficit means a large amount of domestic currency in the hands of foreign countries. If the foreign countries decide to sell the currencies at one point of time then a huge increase in domestic currency may drive down the value of the currency affecting the domestic economy.
Click here to read What is trade deficit.
Whether a trade deficit is bad or good, it depends on business cycle and economy. In times of expansionary situation, a country may like to import more. This may lead to price competition in the domestic market which limits inflation. So trade deficit is not bad during expansion. However, during recession, countries export more creating jobs as well as demand. Therefore, during recession trade deficit has negative effects on the domestic economy.