Comparative Advantage and Absolute Advantage

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What are the differences between absolute advantage and comparative advantage?

Absolute advantage and comparative advantage are two basic concepts to international trade and perhaps two most important concepts in international trade theory. Under absolute advantage, one country can produce more output per unit of productive input than another. With comparative advantage, if one country has an absolute (dis)advantage in every type of output, the other might benefit from specializing in and exporting those products, if any exist.

A country has an absolute advantage economically over another, in a particular good, when it can produce that good at a lower cost. Using the same input of resources a country with an absolute advantage will have greater output. Assuming this one good is the only item in the market, beneficial trade is impossible. An absolute advantage is one where trade is not mutually beneficial, as opposed to a comparative advantage where trade is mutually beneficial.

A country has a comparative advantage in the production of a good if it can produce that good at a lower opportunity cost relative to another country. The theory of comparative advantage explains why it can be beneficial for two parties (countries, regions, individuals and so on) to trade if one has a lower relative cost of producing some good. What matters is not the absolute cost of production but the opportunity cost, which measures how much production of one good, is reduced to produce one more unit of the other good.

A country has an absolute advantage in the production of a good relative to another country if it can produce the good at lower cost or with higher productivity. Absolute advantage compares industry productivities across countries. In the case of Zambia, for instance, the country has an absolute advantage over many countries in the production of copper. This occurs because of the existence of reserves of copper ore or bauxite. We can see that in terms of...
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