How trade makes stuff cheaper, and what its like for workers : Planet Money International trade is the web of cross-border relationships that binds economies together. Because of trade we have access to cheaper, higher-quality goods, and we get to benefit from other countries' cultures. Economics tells us trade makes society, overall on average, better off, but that doesn't mean everyone wins. Today, the good and bad of trade through the eyes of workers in developing economies who make the things sold around the world. We follow them as they navigate the ever-shifting international trade environment. |At this Summer School, phones ARE allowed during class... Check out this week's PM TikTok! | Listen to past seasons of Summer School here.

Planet Money Summer School 6: Trade & The Better Life

Planet Money Summer School 6: Trade & The Better Life

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James Yang for NPR
Illustration by James Yang for NPR
James Yang for NPR

International trade is the glue that binds economies together.

The network of relationships that cross international borders gives us access to goods, services, and culture from around the world. A world without international trade would mean more expensive, often lower-quality goods and services and one where Americans might never have heard of BTS or Bad Bunny.

In theory, when two parties trade, they are both better off. Each side gets something they wouldn't otherwise have, or wouldn't have so much of, or so affordably. Trade allows countries to specialize and then swap and let everyone gain from that.

But it also means that any given worker can get undercut by workers elsewhere offering a lower wage option. Globalized production chases low costs.

This week we get a chance to see trade through the eyes of some of the workers most affected by it: those in developing countries. We visit factories in Colombia and Bangladesh where, once upon a time, Planet Money t-shirts were made and talk to the people navigating an ever-shifting international landscape.


  • Gains From Trade 
  • Absolute Advantage 
  • Comparative Advantage 

Music: Werner's Tangent, Sorry I Kept You, Don't Look Down & Stinkbug Stardust and The Tremors That We know Of

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