The Trade Game was designed to assist students in understanding the complexity of trade. Teams ofstudents represent countries and try to meet their import and export goals by trading products. The hypothetical countries have different productivity levels, demand needs, trade regulations, and purchasing power. Playing the game helps students become aware of the difficulties that can occur in global trade when some countries restrict the trade of certain products. It can lead to class discussions on trade issues or concepts such as fair trade, circumvention, restrictions, gross domestic product, balance oftrade, and economic development of countries.
Historically, Americans have relied on American-made products and services to fulfill their basic needs. In the last half of the 20th century, however, major changes have occurred in who supplies these items. As the new century approaches, many of our goods and services are being produced in other countries. Cars, electronics, clothes, and even food are imported into the United States from countries around the world on a daily basis (Stone, 1994).
Other nations have experienced similar changes, creating a world of economically interdependent countries. Business is now conducted in a global marketplace. To participate, countries need to be able to import and export goods and services (Dickerson, 1995).
Global trade presents many businesses with major challenges because of differing languages, currency, customs, laws, and trade regulations. it can create economic problems such as trade deficits, unemployment, factory closures, and recessions. Conversely, it can contribute to economic affluence by increasing employment, educational opportunities, and living standards (Dickerson, 1995; Stone, 1994).
As citizens of an interdependent world, global trade affects our daily lives. The news continually reports on the components of global trade such as trade deficits, sanctions, and trading partners. Knowledge of these terms helps us to understand about product availability, employment patterns, and the growing numbers of foreign-made products in the United States.
Global trade is a very complex activity. Rules and regulations that may vary from country to country govern it. Helping students understand the issues involved with trade can be very dry, boring, and tedious. Providing them with an interactive approach to the topic can help to make it more interesting and meaningful.
Research indicates academic learning is enhanced when students are active participants rather than passive spectators in the instructional process. Games and simulations are specifically designed activities that provide opportunities to practice real-life situations. They are enjoyable, educational, and excellent motivators for learning (Heyman, 1975; Kemp & Schwaller, 1988).
The purpose of this paper is to describe an interactive simulation, The Trade Game, that was developed to enhance students' abilities to understand and analyze the complexity of trade among nations. It incorporates a variety of concepts associated with trade, including protectionism, free trade, quotas (quantitative restrictions), circumvention (illegal activities that bypass quota limits), trade balance, gross domestic product (GDP, value of products and services produced by a country), and apparent consumption (GDP + imports - exports). Although the game was originally based on textile and apparel industries, its generic nature makes it useable for teaching trade as a general concept. By altering the products or identifying services, different trade scenarios can be created and issues discussed.
The object of the game is for each country to trade products to meet its economic goals. To play the game, it is recommended that the class be divided into seven teams (representing countries) with three students (who have separate roles) on each team.1 Each team is assigned a country designated only as "Country A," "Country B," "Country C," etc. and given an informational packet about the country.
The informational packet includes a card describing the country's production, demand for products, governmental trade restrictions, and starting currency amounts (see Figure 1). Also in the packet are the playing pieces: (a) the starting currency in single unit denominations and (b) colored paper squares that represent the products produced by the country. Each colored square represents a different product and value and is identified accordingly. For example, orange represents a bale of cotton and is valued at $1. The products also include the country name so that once trade begins, country of origin is apparent.
A transparency with a list of each country's production is shown to the class (Figure 2). The teams, however, do not know the other countries demands for products or governmental restrictions. The teams are given a three-section shipping log (see Figure 3). The first section, domestic production, is used prior to trading to determine what needs to be imported, what needs to be exported, and which countries to approach for trade. The other two sections, exports and imports, are used after trading begins to record products and services as they are bought and sold. Figure 3 is an example of how the shipping log might be completed by Country D.
The first section is completed based on the informational card in the packet. Teams list all the items produced by their country in the column labeled "product" and all the items demanded by their country in the "demand/use" column. Exports are determined by subtracting "demand/use" from "products" and imports by subtracting "product" from "demand/use."
Space is also provided to identify potential trading partners. In this example, Country D would identify Countries A, C, E, F, and G as potential countries for buying the required quantities of orange; however, the government restricts (has quotas on) the number of oranges that can be imported from Countries A and C (refer to Figure 1). The Country D team may also strategize that Countries A and C could be potential buyers of her excess production of red and blue. In this example, Country D sold its excess production to Countries A, C, and F and bought needed products from Countries A, C, F, and G. Note that these two sections will differ every time the game is played because there are a number of potential trading partners for each country.
The game begins with a strategy meeting to complete the first section of the shipping log and to identify trading partners. Each team selects an importer, an exporter, and a customs officer. Then the floor is opened for trade. importers set out to buy needed products and the exporters try to sell the excess products. The customs officer uses the shipping log to record the products bought or sold and the country of origin or destination of each. She or he also marks imported products with her/his country name so items bought and sold more than once can be identified. During the trading process, the importers and exporters become aware of the other countries demands and governmental restrictions. Traders may discover that to get all the products desired, they may have to buy unwanted products and resell them. By marking imported products it is easy to determine if circumvention (illegal trade) occurred.
The instructor may halt play at any time and request to see the shipping log of a country to determine if any illegal trading took place, to add to the realism of the game. if infractions are found, the country-team is forced to reduce by one the number of products they are allowed to sell, thus reducing the amount of money they can accumulate.
At the end of the game, teams determine how successful they were at meeting their country's demand for products and services. Each team must complete a questionnaire that requires the calculation of the gross domestic product, apparent consumption, and value and quantity of their imports and exports. As a concluding exercise, class time is allowed to discuss trading procedures, problems encountered, and to analyze the effects of trade restrictions on the movement of products and services. Other issues or concepts that can be discussed are fair trade, circumvention, quotas, and trade balance.
DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
The global trading process was simplified in this game. The values and number of products and services were low and the amount of currency minimal ($5 to $25). Sketches of materials or final products used or produced by the textile and apparel industries represented the products. Sketches included: cotton boll on orange squares valued at $1, yam on yellow at $2, fabric on blue at $4, and a finished garment on red at $5. Governmental restrictions were limited to quotas. The game was designed so some countries could not buy everything they needed and others could not sell all their excess production.
Since the game simulated hypothetical trade cases, letters (Country A) were used rather than country names. The information about the countries' production, demand, and available currency was developed to ensure that there were countries that represented different levels of economic development and/or economic systems. For example, a developing country may have only a few low-priced products to sell in the global marketplace, strict importation rules to protect domestic industries, and little currency to buy world goods. A highly developed country, on the other hand, may have several products at a variety of prices to sell, few importation rules, and large sums of currency to buy world goods.
After using the game with different groups of students, two modifications were made to the game-play procedures. First, the game was halted after several minutes of trade. This allowed the teams time for an additional strategy meeting to assess how trade is proceeding and to develop a plan for completing the trading process. Second, the game is now played more than once during the class period. Students are assigned to different countries and partners. This strategy exposes the students to other countries with different productivity levels, demand needs, trading regulations, and purchasing power.
The game was used in an upper-level college class dealing with the global issues that affect the clothing and textile industries. It was designed to take approximately 60 to 90 minutes to play the game and discuss issues. From the information provided in this report, teachers could develop similar games related to any traded product and/or service and discuss issues appropriate to class content and academic level.
Students indicated they enjoyed the game and had a better understanding of the problems that can occur when trade is restricted. To determine if students learn more about trade using the game rather than lecture-only methods, an empirical study would need to be conducted.
The game can serve as a basis for future class assignments. For example, a debate on free trade versus protectionism could result from the difficulties some students encountered in the trading process because of imposed trade restrictions. Another exercise could require students to research a country's production, trade policies, economic and political system, employment patterns, living standards, culture, geographical location, and demographics and discuss how the factors impact its ability to take part in global trade.
Trade affects virtually every aspect of our lives in some way. Everyone should have a basic understanding of the concepts and issues involved in it. The Trade Game is a very useful instructional tool for clarifying the dynamics of trade and playing it can lead to important discussions of factors that influence and affect global trade.
Global trade presents many businesses with major challenges because of differing languages, currency, customs, laws, and trade regulations
Helping students understand the issues involved with trade can be very dry, boring, and tedious. Providing them with an interactive approach to the topic can help to make it more interesting and meaningful.
1In smaller classes, the number of team members can be reduced and in larger classes, increased or more countries added. Large classes can also be divided into two groups with each group divided into seven teams.
Dickerson, K G. (1995). Textiles and apparel in the global economy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Heyman, M. (1975). Simulation games for the classroom. Bloomington, IN: The Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.
Kemp, W.H. & Schwaller, A. E. (Eds.). (1988). Instructional strategies for technology education. Mission Hills, CA: Glencoe.
Stone, E. (1994). Exporting and importing fashion: A global perspective. Albany, NY: Delmar.
MEG SUNDSETH, Graduate Student University of Akron
JEAN D. HINES, Ph.D. Associate Professor Bowling Green State University
MARY E. SWINKER, Ph.D. Associate Professor Indiana University of Pennsylvania…